Barry Sternlicht, CEO of global investment group Starwood Capital, told CNBC that negative factors are contributing to his unease about the state of U.S. economy.
"The economy's not quite as strong as the number indicated," he told CNBC's Jim Cramer on "Mad Money" on Wednesday evening after the market rout that took the Dow Jones Industrial Average nearly 832 points, or 3.15 percent, lower. "I think the Fed is going to have to be careful."
Sternlicht's Fed comments echoed those of Cramer and President Donald Trump, who continued his tirade against Fed Chairman Jerome Powell. The president suggested Wednesday evening the central bank was to blame for the market plunge. Trump also said the Fed "is going loco."
Powell's remarks last week about monetary policy being a "long way" from neutral signaled a possibly more aggressive path for interest rate hikes, sparking a spike in bond yields to seven-year highs and applying pressure on the stock market.
Sternlicht cited the flattening yield curve in the bond market, where the rate on the 2-year Treasury is close to the one on the 30-year. A flattening yield curve has historically been a warning sign of a possible recession.
"It's not what we're used to, but usually, it's a signal of a downturn," said Sternlicht, founder of Starwood Capital, which has $56 billion in assets under management. "I think it is a signal of a downturn."
Sternlicht also sees the U.S.-China trade war weighing on businesses, and by extension the economy. "What people don't understand about the tariffs is you're going to see their impact, I think, in the first quarter of next year."