Icahn urges Fed to get off zero, says 'treacherous path' undertaken

Tue Sep 29, 2015 10:28am EDT
 
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By Jennifer Ablan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Billionaire investor activist Carl Icahn ramped up criticism of the U.S. Federal Reserve, warning about the unintended consequences of ultra low interest rates on the economy and financial markets.

"They don't understand the treacherous path they are going down," Icahn said in an interview with Reuters, in which he also declared his support for Donald Trump as a candidate to be the next U.S. president. (tinyurl.com/njyy2cf)

"God knows where this is going. It's very dangerous and could be disastrous," said Icahn, who has been a consistent critic of the Fed for keeping its benchmark interest rate close to zero since late 2008.

The Fed's loose monetary policies have pulled the U.S. economy out of crisis but the cheap credit has also fueled a corporate debt binge and a quest for yield among ordinary investors, who are buying riskier assets such as junk bonds to get a better return.

Icahn, a Wall Street veteran who made his fortune buying stakes in companies such as RJR Nabisco, Texaco, Phillips Petroleum, Lions Gate Entertainment Corp, Netflix Inc, Apple and eBay Inc and pushing their management to change their strategy, said that he is hedged against the possibility of a market meltdown.

"I got a huge hedge on against my long positions. So if you say, I am short, yeah, I am short big but then again, I am long bigger," Icahn said, acknowledging that he is a big beneficiary of the Fed's policies even as he criticizes them.

Icahn, 79, has a big bet on shares in Apple Inc, which have posted returns of about 12 percent over the last year, but also has holdings in energy companies such as Chesapeake Energy Corp and Cheniere Energy Inc, which are down 71 percent and 41 percent, respectively.

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Billionaire activist-investor Carl Icahn gives an interview on FOX Business Network's Neil Cavuto show in New York February 11, 2014.     REUTERS/Brendan McDermid