Billionaire investor George Soros said China’s economy is heading for a hard landing and will contribute to global deflation.
"A hard landing is practically unavoidable," Soros said on Bloomberg Television from Davos. "I’m not expecting it, I’m observing it. China can manage it. It has resources and greater latitude in policies, with $3 trillion in reserves."
Soros said it’s too early to buy stocks and that he shorted the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, which is down about 8.5 percent for the year. The investor said he also went long of U.S. government bonds.
The investor said he would be surprised if the Federal Reserve raised interest rates again after hiking them in December for the first time in almost a decade. He said central bankers could cut borrowing costs instead.
Soros said the slowdown in China stemming from over- indebtedness is inflicting its problems on the rest of the world. China, along with falling oil prices and raw materials, are the root causes of deflation.
Soros this week warned that the European Union is on the "verge of collapse" over the migrant crisis and is in "danger of kicking the ball further up the hill" in its management of the issue which has seen more than a million migrants and refugees arrive in the region in 2015.
In an interview with the New York Review of Books, Soros added that the German Chancellor Angela Merkel is key to solving the crisis.
"There is plenty to be nervous about," the financier said.
"As she (Merkel) correctly predicted, the EU is on the verge of collapse. The Greek crisis taught the European authorities the art of muddling through one crisis after another. This practice is popularly known as kicking the can down the road, although it would be more accurate to describe it as kicking a ball uphill so that it keeps rolling back down," he said.
"Merkel correctly foresaw the potential of the migration crisis to destroy the European Union. What was a prediction has become the reality. The European Union badly needs fixing. This is a fact but it is not irreversible. And the people who can stop Merkel's dire prediction from coming true are actually the German people,” he said.
"Now it's time for Germans to decide: Do they want to accept the responsibilities and the liabilities involved in being the dominant power in Europe?"
Soros is among the best-known, most successful hedge fund managers of all time.
Soros has retired from the day-to-day operations of what is now his family-office hedge fund to focus on his foundation and philanthropy.
But he said he uses the same sort of mindset he learned from investing and applies it to his philanthropy and political work: He looks at the dark side of things to find solutions.
“But it is a biased view and deliberately so. Recognizing a problem is an invitation to do something about it. That is the main lesson I learned from the formative experience of my life, in 1944, when the Nazis occupied Hungary. I might not have survived if my father hadn't secured false identification papers for his family (and many others)," Soros said.
"He taught me that it's much better to face harsh reality than to close your eyes to it. Once you are aware of the dangers, your chances of survival are much better if you take some risks than if you meekly follow the crowd. That is why I trained myself to look at the dark side. It has served me well in the financial markets and it is guiding me now in my political philanthropy. As long as I can find a winning strategy, however tenuous, I don't give up. In danger lies opportunity. It's always darkest before dawn.”
Earlier this month, Soros warned that weaker world markets, triggered by a slowdown in China, were showing signs of a financial crisis reminiscent of the 2008 crash.
"We are facing a very serious transitional problem which is quite recent and it is, I would say, (something) that amounts to a crisis and we are at the beginning of that," Soros said.
"When I look at the financial markets, there I see a serious challenge, which reminds me of actually the crisis we had in 2008."
The Hungarian-born multi-billionaire said he had warned his investment staff to play it safe.
"In my guidance to my investment people, I have been telling them to be very, very cautious and very, very, very careful."
Soros warned that current deflationary pressures could lead to a downward spiral.
While falling prices might be good for consumers in the short term, deflation can endure dangerously if consumers delay purchases in the hope of lower prices later, which in turn prompts companies to hold off investment.
"Instead of spending that (saved) income, they will use it to reduce their indebtedness because they can buy goods that they want cheaper next near than this year," he told the forum.
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