October 19, 2020

Wearing masks to help economy avoid shutdown

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink told CNBC on Friday that wearing masks is critical to helping the U.S. economy recover from the damage caused by forced business closures because of the coronavirus.

“We are witnessing many, many states reopening, but reopening without wearing masks. We need a world of compassion and that compassion is meaning wearing a mask,” Fink said on “Squawk Box.” “If we all wore masks, if we all cared about our fellow citizens a little more, we will be resolving this crisis much sooner.”

However, a failure to wear masks and take other precautions may allow the virus to continue to spread and potentially necessitate more strict mitigation measures, he said.

“If the disease continues to grow, if mortality rates grow from where they are today, then we’re going to have to see another shutdown of parts of our economy, and then the small and medium business … are going to have a harder time,” Fink said.

In states such as Texas and California, parts of their reopening plans have already been pulled back or paused due to record-breaking Covid-19 case increases and spiking hospitalizations. Daily coronavirus cases in the U.S. hit another record, topping 77,000 on Thursday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Fink said BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, has never believed that the U.S. economy would snap back quickly from the coronavirus-induced recession. It will be “a slower, more persistent rebound,” he said, pointing to differences between the pandemic and the 2008 financial crisis. 

“This is much more psychology too because of the fear of the virus, the fear of health. This is an existential problem, too, so it’s way beyond a financial crisis that we saw in 2008,” he said. “That’s why I do believe it’s going to take longer for us to find that stability.”  

On Friday morning, BlackRock beat expectations with second-quarter earnings and revenue, while also reporting a 7% increase in assets under management to $7.32 trillion.

Fink noted that BlackRock saw strong retail net flows of $16.2 billion globally, compared to $1.9 billion in the same quarter a year ago. It also saw $51 billion go into its iShares ETFs and revenues from its portfolio management software grew by 17%, he said. 

“Put that all together, it was really illustrative of more and more clients are looking for BlackRock to get information, to interpret the information for them, and to help them invest their retirement savings or investing for any purpose,” he said. 

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