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March 23, 2020, 12:36 p.m. EDT

Complete 30-day shutdown? Two Wall Street billionaires air their differences on the best coronavirus strategy

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By Shawn Langlois, MarketWatch


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Former Goldman Sachs /zigman2/quotes/209237603/composite GS +1.45% boss Lloyd Blankfein took to Twitter /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR +7.34% on Sunday night to urge the government to kickstart the U.S. economy as soon as possible.

“Extreme measures to flatten the virus ‘curve’ is sensible—for a time—to stretch out the strain on health infrastructure,” he wrote . “But crushing the economy, jobs and morale is also a health issue-and beyond. Within a very few weeks let those with a lower risk to the disease return to work.”

According to the St. Louis Fed’s James Bullard, who said over the weekend that the U.S. economy could ultimately see 30% unemployment, “crushing” seems about right.

Read: Nobel Prize winner shares some good news about the coronavirus pandemic

But hedge-fund billionaire Bill Ackman is looking for drastic measures to take hold, and, in this response to Blankfein, he repeated his call for a 30-day shutdown to fight the pandemic:

Ackman followed up with more color in another tweet:

“The virus can’t survive without a host. With a coordinated national shutdown for all but essential services, manufacturing, retail, etc for 30 days, the virus is largely obliterated,” he wrote. “When the economy reopens, we test widely so that we can quarantine outbreaks when they reappear.”

Last week, Ackman went on CNBC to state his full case in an emotional interview.

“What’s scaring the American people and corporate America now is the gradual rollout,” he said, adding that Trump’s reelection hinges on what happens next. “We need to shut it down now... This is the only answer. America will end as we know it. I’m sorry to say so, unless we take this option”

A choked-up Ackman warned that “hell is coming” and revealed he went into lockdown almost a month ago in an effort to save his immunocompromised father’s life.

As it stands now, fear still grips the market, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.68%  , Nasdaq Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +1.44% and S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.78% all firmly in the red on Monday.

/zigman2/quotes/209237603/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 202.25
+2.89 +1.45%
Volume: 2.79M
July 8, 2020 4:00p
P/E Ratio
10.99
Dividend Yield
2.47%
Market Cap
$68.56 billion
Rev. per Employee
$1.34M
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 35.41
+2.42 +7.34%
Volume: 109.65M
July 8, 2020 4:03p
P/E Ratio
21.97
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$25.88 billion
Rev. per Employee
$776,112
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime
US : Dow Jones Global
26,067.28
+177.10 +0.68%
Volume: 337.30M
July 8, 2020 4:58p
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
10,492.50
+148.61 +1.44%
Volume: 3.67M
July 8, 2020 5:16p
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime
US : S&P US
3,169.94
+24.62 +0.78%
Volume: 2.39B
July 8, 2020 4:58p
loading...

Shawn Langlois is an editor and writer for MarketWatch in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @slangwise.

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