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BlackRock’s Wiedman Joins Schwarzman Blasting Negative Rates

Annie Massa and John Gittelsohn

(Bloomberg) -- Mark Wiedman, head of international and corporate strategy at BlackRock Inc., sounded an alarm about negative interest rates on the day the Federal Reserve lowered its benchmark.

“We’re slouching toward the U.S. moving into negative rate territory,” Wiedman said at the FT Future of Asset Management Summit in New York Wednesday. “Negative rates are corroding and poisoning financial systems.”

Wiedman joined Steve Schwarzman and Jeffrey Gundlach in stressing the harm of negative rates to banks and the economy. Fed policy makers lowered their main interest rate today for a second time this year while splitting over the need for further easing, caught between uncertainty over trade and global growth and a domestic economy that’s holding up well. The benchmark rate was lowered by a quarter percentage point to a range of 1.75% to 2%.

Schwarzman commented earlier on negative rates, saying they hinder economic growth by hurting the ability of banks to lend.

“My strong view is I don’t think it makes any sense whatsoever,” Schwarzman, the founder of Blackstone Group Inc., said at the Economic Club of New York. “Why would I take my money and pay somebody to take it? It’s hard enough to make it. I really just don’t understand the theory behind negative interest rates.”

Gundlach, chief investment officer of DoubleLine Capital, said negative rates look like they’re becoming a long-term economic feature rather than a short-term novelty.

“Now people seem to think that negative interest rates could be with us longer than they initially anticipated and they’re starting to really think about maybe we should make some changes in our asset allocation to kind of side step what could be a prolonged period of negative interest rates,” Gundlach said during a webcast Tuesday. “I’d say that’s probably a wise thing to factor in, but it misses the point that it’s also fatal to the banking system over the long term and the long term does arrive.”

Wiedman agrees that once an economy commits to negative rates it’s hard to escape them. He said the lesson from European and Japanese forays into negative rates has been “when you’re deep in a hole, keep digging.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Annie Massa in New York at amassa12@bloomberg.net;John Gittelsohn in Los Angeles at johngitt@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alan Mirabella at amirabella@bloomberg.net, Vincent Bielski, Melissa Karsh

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