The U.S. economy is much stronger than people think, and there’s “no evidence” of an impending slowdown or recession yet, says celebrity investor Kevin O’Leary.
“I’m not saying we won’t get one, but everybody that’s saying it’s coming around the corner next week is just wrong,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Thursday.
“There’s no data, there’s no evidence, there’s no numbers, there’s no inclination on the consumer to slowdown yet,” he said.
The chairman of O’Shares ETFs said he’s invested in a wide range of sectors, from commercial kitchens and wireless charging to gym equipment and greeting cards. And he hasn’t seen “any indication” of a recession.
“I see their tear sheets each week. We don’t see slowdown yet,” he said, referring to a document summarizing key information about a company. “I think I’ll be one of the first to see it. I’m sort of a canary in the coal mine in that respect.”
He said consumption is still doing well at the moment.
U.S. GDP declined 1.5% in the first quarter of the year despite strong consumer spending because of weakness in business and private investment.
There are two reasons why it’s difficult to predict a recession, O’Leary said.
The first is that $4.5 trillion dollars were added to the U.S. economy in the past few years “from a helicopter, into the hands of consumers and businesses all over the land.”
That’s an unprecedented amount of money pumped into the system, he said.
“I deal with numbers each week, of what the consumer’s buying with the money they have, they’ve been given so much of it in the last three years and I’m not in the camp that says a dramatic recession,” he added.
Second, technology has boosted productivity.
The direct-to-consumer model is now being used in every sector of the economy, which means higher gross margins and more customer data for companies. It’s far more efficient and productive, O’Leary said.
“Those that are really saying we’re going to get a massive recession could be wrong and be missing returns as this market slowly claws its way back,” he said.
“I’m erring on the side of a soft landing in terms of my investment strategy,” the “Shark Tank” investor said.
He said everyone thinks the central bank is out of control, but he’s of the view that Fed Chair Jerome Powell is in a “pretty good shape” trying to balance inflation and employment.
Even if there are signs of a slowdown or a recession, that risk already appears to be baked into share prices given the major corrections in many indexes, O’Leary pointed out.
“Everybody that’s telling me it’s the end of the free world as we know it is not looking at the data,” he said, adding that some private companies he’s invested in have had “spectacular quarters.”
The economy will slow down at some point, but he said he hasn’t seen it yet.
“I trust numbers, not talking heads. I get talking heads all day long telling me what they think is going to happen. I look at the numbers. Numbers don’t lie. Cash flow doesn’t lie. That’s what I care about,” he said.
“Talking heads make noise. Cash is cash,” he added.
Not everyone agrees.
Former Fed Governor Robert Heller said the U.S. is “very close to a recession,” pointing to the contraction in the first quarter and signs that there will be no growth in the second quarter. A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of declines.
“We’re perilously close to that because we are looking at zero growth for the second quarter. The smallest negative influence will tip us actually into a technical recession,” he told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” on Thursday.