How Famous Investors Make Money During Recession

By Andrew Moran
Andrew Moran
Andrew Moran
Andrew Moran has been writing about business, economics, and finance for more than a decade. He is the author of "The War on Cash."
October 21, 2022Updated: October 24, 2022

Wall Street is almost certain that the U.S. economy will slip into another recession in 2023. However, market analysts have different opinions on what the financial markets will look like over the next 12 months.

Goldman Sachs slashed its target for the benchmark S&P 500 Index, to 3,600, projecting another 4 percent drop ahead. The Royal Bank of Canada anticipates a stock market bottom in the coming weeks, with a rally in equities in 2023. A Bank of America fund survey suggests full capitulation, carving out a path for a stock market rally in 2023 after the Federal Reserve pivots on interest rates.

So, how should investors trade this market over the next year, according to some of the most prominent names on Wall Street?

Carl Icahn

While speaking remotely at MarketWatch’s Best New Ideas in Money Festival last month, prominent investor Carl Icahn warned that “you can’t cure” inflation.

“We printed up too much money, and just thought the party would never end. And the party’s over,” he said.

Epoch Times Photo
Chairman of Icahn Enterprises, Carl Icahn, participates in a panel discussion at the New York Times 2015 DealBook Conference at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York on Nov. 3, 2015. (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Times)

While his stock market outlook isn’t bullish, predicting that “the worst is yet to come,” he was asked what opportunities he sees in the equities arena. He offered two stocks: CVR Energy and CVR Partners.

The former is an energy company that has rallied about 124 percent year to date, while the latter is a fertilizer firm that has climbed approximately 48 percent this year.

“[The] fertilizer business, to me, is a great business today,” Icahn said. “You need fertilizer if you want to eat.”

According to Icahn’s latest Securities and Exchange Commission 13F filing data, his top holdings outside of Icahn Enterprises are CVR Energy (11.44 percent), Cheniere Energy (3.58 percent), and FirstEnergy Corp. (3.49 percent).

But perhaps Icahn’s best trade in 2022 might have been Twitter. According to Bloomberg, the billionaire investor bet on Elon Musk’s acquisition of the social media outlet, anticipating that he would be unable to back out of his $44 billion takeover bid. Reportedly, Icahn purchased a $500 million stake when the stock was trading at around the mid-$30-a-share range. He profited nearly $250 million as a result of the stock’s rise, according to media reports.

Arthur Laffer Jr.

Whether the stock market has further to fall or is poised for a rally depends on the Federal Reserve and investors’ expectations surrounding monetary policy, said Arthur Laffer Jr., president of Laffer Tengler Investments.

“I think, overall, the stock market is going to do pretty well,” he told The Epoch Times. “I mean, historically speaking, stocks actually do well, on a relative basis, over inflationary periods.”

According to Laffer, the equities arena will be adjusting to a “stock pickers’ market,” whereby picking individual stocks is a top strategy. Balance-sheet investing, Laffer noted, will also turn into a crucial investment strategy for traders.

“When you get markets like this, there’s a big difference between owning higher-quality stocks versus lower-quality stocks,” he said, adding that value stocks do well, but investors can’t get in “too deep” because they can also get crushed.

Ultimately, today’s environment is vastly different from what it was in, say, the 1970s, particularly because corporations possess a lot more information than they did 50 years ago. This allows companies, from Procter & Gamble to Microsoft, to model different scenarios and respond to the climate faster.

“This is where management really makes a difference,” Laffer noted, “and their balance sheets really matter.”

Bill Ackman
Bill Ackman, CEO of Pershing Square Capital, speaks at the Wall Street Journal Digital Conference in Laguna Beach, Calif., on Oct. 17, 2017. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Bill Ackman

Bill Ackman, another notable investor and the CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, told CNBC in September that he believes the annual inflation rate will fall to 3.5 percent to 4 percent in a year, adding that the “buy signal” will happen sometime in 2023.

Ackman may not have publicly recommended any investment strategies, but his $7.46 billion investment fund made plenty of adjustments in the first and second quarters.

His most notable action was selling his 11.21 percent stake in Netflix, 13F numbers show. Ackman also reduced his positions in several service sector brands, including Chipotle Mexican Grill, Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Domino’s Pizza, and Restaurant Brands International. But he added to his Canadian Pacific Railway stake.

With consumer demand slowing, Ackman might be preparing for the service sector to take a hit amid a possible economic downturn in 2023.

Peter Schiff

It’s no secret that Peter Schiff, the president and CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, is a gold bug. The most recent 13F filing from the second quarter suggests that his firm increased its holdings in Barrick Gold, Agnico Eagle Mines, Royal Gold, and Pan American Silver.

But Schiff has also recommended investing in recession-proof assets, particularly in companies that “sell products and services consumers have to buy, not just what they want to buy.” Food, crude oil, and tobacco are just some examples, according to Schiff. Euro Pacific Asset Management built more positions in British American Tobacco, Philip Morris International, Shell, BP, and Kellogg in the second quarter of this year.

Still, with inflation as high as it is, Schiff thinks investors need gold for protection.

“[W]hat a lot of people don’t realize about gold is that it’s money. It is liquidity. It’s everything else that loses value in relationship to gold. Gold is a better form of money than anything governments have come up with to replace it,” he told Fox Business earlier this month.

“And in times like this, where we have inflation that’s going to run out of control, and central banks that are powerless to rein it in because they’ve created it—and they’ve created economies that are dependent on it—more and more people, including central banks, are going to be returning to gold.”

Warren Buffett

“A simple rule dictates my buying,” Warren Buffett wrote in a 2008 op-ed in The New York Times. “Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful. And most certainly, fear is now widespread, gripping even seasoned investors.”

The legendary investor and the “Oracle of Omaha” hasn’t been a fan of panicking during meltdowns or diversifying by buying a bunch of stocks.

According to second-quarter 13F filings, most of Berkshire Hathaway’s largest holdings are made up of just six companies: Apple (40.7 percent), Bank of America (10.5 percent), Chevron (7.5 percent), Coca-Cola (7.79 percent), American Express (6.7 percent), and Occidental Petroleum (6.2 percent). During the second quarter, Buffett purchased shares in Activision Blizzard, Ally Financial, and McKesson Corp. But he sold shares in General Motors, Kroger, and Verizon Communications.

So, he could be staying the course and relying on companies with strong balance sheets that pay steady dividends.

Andrew Moran has been writing about business, economics, and finance for more than a decade. He is the author of "The War on Cash."