Dimon says US has good chance for a rapid economic recovery

Michelle F. Davis

Jamie Dimon sees “pretty good odds” of a fast economic rebound starting in the third quarter thanks to the U.S. government’s stimulus programs and the strength of the consumer going into the pandemic.

“You could see a fairly rapid recovery,” the JPMorgan Chase & Co. chief executive officer said Tuesday at a virtual conference hosted by Deutsche Bank AG. “The government has been pretty responsive, large companies have the wherewithal, hopefully we’re keeping the small ones alive.”

Dimon, who runs the largest U.S. bank, pointed to economists’ forecasts that show unemployment spiking to around 18% this quarter, then falling to 14% in the third quarter and declining to about 10% or 11% by the end of the year.

In this April 10, 2019, file photo JPMorgan Chase chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon testifies before the House Financial Services Committee. Dimon  said Tuesday, May 26, 2020, that he sees “pretty good odds” of a fast economic rebound starting in the third quarter.

In response to the crisis, the Federal Reserve has effectively cut interest rates to zero, pumped trillions of dollars into the economy and announced plans for nine emergency-lending programs, including support for small businesses. The jobless rate more than tripled in April to 14.7% as employers cut an unprecedented 20.5 million jobs.

But many states have begun the process of easing restrictions on businesses put in place to slow the spread of Covid-19, and “you’re already seeing the positive effects of the opening-up taking place, at least for the economy,” Dimon said.

Shares of the bank surged 7.6% to $96.30 at 2:19 p.m. in New York, the biggest increase in more than a month. They’re down 31% this year.

Credit Reserves

Under JPMorgan’s base-case scenario, banks might not need to add to credit reserves for the rest of the year, after boosting them substantially this quarter, he said. “You’re going to know a lot more by the end of the third quarter,” when the first round of forbearances and mortgages come due, he said.

Dimon pointed to data that show roughly 33% of those who asked for forbearance on home loans didn’t use it.

“A lot of people who ask for it – even those who used it – did it as a safety precaution,” he said. “It’s a healthier consumer. You see that in underlying delinquencies. It’s completely different from a consumer standpoint” than during the financial crisis in 2008, he said.

Dimon warned that a prolonged downturn is still possible.

“If it does go on for a year, it won’t be very good,” he said. “You can’t prop up the stock market forever.”