JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon sharply criticized former President Donald Trump on Thursday, saying the 2024 presidential candidate doesn’t understand the debt ceiling and what is at stake. It is just “one more thing he doesn’t know very much about,” Dimon told Bloomberg Television.
Trump said in a CNN town hall Wednesday night that a default would be preferable to a result that doesn’t stop the government “spending money like drunken sailors.”
Economists and congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle say an extended default would hurt the US economy, triggering widespread unemployment, surging interest rates and sparking a global downturn.
Defaulting on the US debt would be “potentially catastrophic,” Dimon said Thursday.
“The closer you get to it, you will have panic. Markets will get volatile, maybe the stock market will go down, the Treasury markets will have their own problems,” he said. “This is not good.”
Dimon also expressed concerns that US creditworthiness could be downgraded, as it was during the 2011 debt limit crisis.
Dimon told Bloomberg he has been hunkering down in a so-called “war room” once a week in order to prepare JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the United States, for the possibility of a debt default.
As the June 1 ‘X-date’ approaches — when the US Treasury could run out of cash and extraordinary measures to pay all government obligations — Dimon said he will convene his war room more often. By May 21, he expects to meet every day.
He added that while he’s respectful both of Republicans and Democrats during ongoing negotiations, he’d “love to get rid of the debt ceiling thing” altogether.
The whole debt ceiling situation “is very unfortunate,” he added. “It should never happen this way.”
On the whole, Dimon said he doesn’t feel confident about what the second half of 2023 holds for the US economy.
American consumers still have excess money in their bank accounts, he said, but they’re quickly spending it down and “the bite of that is going to happen later this year.”
By that time, he added, the full impact of the Federal Reserve’s tightening regimen could be felt by the economy.
“I think it’s reasonable to say that those two things are coming to fruition maybe towards the end of the year,” he said.
Given the risks, “I would take a mild recession happily,” he said.
He also reiterated that he is far more concerned about the toll the geopolitical climate could take on the US economy.
“Ukraine, trade, Russia and our relationship with China” top his list of worries, he told Bloomberg.
In April, he told CNN’s Poppy Harlow that the war in Ukraine was “the most important thing.”
Those rising tensions abroad are “changing everything we think about in the world” from safety and security to food and energy, he said. “It’s changing economic relationships, it’s roiling the relationship with us and China.”
Dimon also told Bloomberg he has met with the leadership of embattled US regional banks every day for the last week.
“We need to finish the bank crisis,” he said. “We’ve had uncertain policy on mergers,” he said “and I think we have to assume there will be a little bit more.”
Last week, JPMorgan acquired the majority of First Republic after the bank’s collapse into receivership.
First Republic was the third-largest US bank to fail and came just over a month after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank set off concerns about the health of the financial sector.
Still, in a bit of good news, he said mid-size banks’ fundamentals are strong.
“They’re quite worried because of the run on deposits, but their financial results are good,” said Dimon. “They’re going to be okay next quarter: They’re earning money, they’ve got very good clientele, very diversified.”
The Biden administration has recently pointed fingers at short-sellers who bet against the banks and profited when they fell.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters during a press briefing last week that the administration is “going to closely monitor the market developments, including the short-selling pressures…on healthy banks.”
Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler said in a statement that his agency is focused on finding “any form of misconduct” that threatens investors and capital markets.
Dimon said on Thursday that the SEC has the enforcement capability to look at “what people are doing, by name, in options, derivatives and short sales.”
If someone is doing something wrong like colluding or tweeting about a bank after short-selling its stock, the SEC “should go after them, and vigorously,” said Dimon. “They should be punished to the full extent that the law allows it.”
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