Americans Are Making 'Huge Mistake' to Believe Certain 'Booming' Economy Narratives: Jamie Dimon

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon said the belief that the U.S. economy will boom for a long time is a "huge mistake."
Americans Are Making 'Huge Mistake' to Believe Certain 'Booming' Economy Narratives: Jamie Dimon
JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon speaks during the Business Roundtable CEO Innovation Summit in Washington on Dec. 6, 2018. (Jim Waton/AFP via Getty Images)
Tom Ozimek

Americans who assume that the U.S. economy will continue to boom for years on the back of consumer strength are making "a huge mistake," JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said at a financial conference in New York on Sept. 11.

At the Barclays Global Financial Services Conference, Mr. Dimon warned of a number of risks to the U.S. economy, including the Ukraine war, monetary tightening by the Federal Reserve, and increasing reliance on government spending.

“To say the consumer is strong today, meaning you are going to have a booming environment for years, is a huge mistake,” he said.
The booming economy narrative has gained prominence in recent months, driven by strong retail sales and wage growth, while recession fears have eased. But there are signs that the recent rise in consumer sentiment might be temporary and that the economy is facing some headwinds.

Consumer Strength Weakening?

Consumer spending, which represents roughly 70 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, posted solid growth in July, the latest month of available data. However, economists widely expect the past year of aggressive Fed interest rate increases to weigh more heavily on domestic demand.

The latest data on retail sales showed that Americans spent more than expected in July, splurging on hobbies, sporting goods, and clothing, prompting economists at Goldman Sachs to raise their third-quarter gross domestic product estimate by seven-tenths of a percentage point to a 2.2 percent annualized rate.

However, there are signs that the boom may not last, since the latest consumer tracker for August from Deloitte says that financial well-being sentiment has stagnated, with the percentage of consumers worried about savings and postponing big purchases on the rise, while spending intentions "remain on a long-term downtrend."
A separate barometer of consumer confidence from the Conference Board found that after a sharp uptick in July, its gauge retreated to a reading "a hair above 80—the level that historically signals a recession within the next year."

While financial markets have, over the summer, largely dismissed recession fears, fresh data suggest that the country may be facing a "stagnation" point.

"A near-stalling of business activity in August raises doubts over the strength of U.S. economic growth in the third quarter," Chris Williamson, chief business economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said in a report that showed new orders tumbling, input cost inflation rising, and the pace of job creation slowing.

Mr. Dimon's remarks at the conference tapped into that sentiment, with the JPMorgan chief saying that the health of U.S. consumers and businesses was still "pretty good," although he warned against overconfidence.

Key concerns that he mentioned were the twin factors of central bank efforts to roll back easy money policies—which have pushed inflation to multi-decade highs—and governments "spending like drunken sailors."

"I think there's a false sense of security that those two things will end up being OK," he said.

Higher Capital Requirements

At the conference, Mr. Dimon also took aim at the higher capital requirements that U.S. regulators have proposed for banks, warning that such measures could starve the economy of credit and amount to another hurdle to growth.

"I wouldn't be a big buyer of a bank," he said, drawing laughter from the audience, while calling the new proposal "hugely disappointing."

"All I want is fairness, transparency, openness," Mr. Dimon, who heads the United States' biggest lender, said with regard to the regulatory proposal, which would require banks with total assets of $100 billion or more to maintain an additional 2 percentage points in capital above current levels so they could better absorb losses if times get tough.

The regulatory proposal has been roundly criticized by the banking industry, with Bank Policy Institute President and CEO Greg Baer warning of "higher costs to consumers and greater instability for markets," in a statement obtained by The Epoch Times.

Mr. Dimon said that the new regulatory proposal would require JPMorgan to hold 30 percent more in capital than a European lender, which he said is an unfair burden on U.S. banks.

However, some U.S. regulators have said the proposal doesn't go far enough.

Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari recently said he expects more government regulation of the banking sector in light of several high-profile bank failures.

Mr. Kashkari also said that he'd like to see the proposed capital requirement rules apply to smaller institutions with less than $100 billion in total assets, though he didn't specify what threshold he had in mind.

At this week's conference, Mr. Dimon also said he believes that the Chinese market is no longer as attractive to foreign investors as it once was.

"In terms of our own business, the risk-reward [from China], which was very good, has now become OK. The risk is bad," he said, adding that JPMorgan has become more cautious about managing its risk.

Caution has also entered the homebuyer market in the United States, with mortgage applications dropping last week to their lowest point since 1996.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Tom Ozimek is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times. He has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education.