During a Tuesday interview with CNBC, the seasoned executive commented on a variety of market phenomena and noted that the United States economy is currently the strongest in the world. “If you look in the short run, the consumer is spending 10% more than last year and 40% more than pre-COVID,” he said. “That’s a tremendous sum of money, and they have a trillion and a half dollars in their checking accounts more than pre-COVID.”
Households have indeed been spending beyond their means as nominal wages rise more slowly than price levels. The total amount of consumer loans has increased by $300 billion since the beginning of last year, according to data from the Federal Reserve. Meanwhile, the personal savings rate has dropped from 20% to nearly 2% over the same period, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, marking a significant decline from typical rates witnessed before the lockdown-induced recession.
Consumers are therefore limited in their capacity to maintain current spending levels. “Inflation is eroding everything … and that trillion and a half dollars will run out sometime mid-year next year,” Dimon continued. “When you’re looking out forward, those things may very well derail the economy and cause a mild or hard recession that people worry about.”
Dimon, widely regarded as one of the most powerful business leaders on Wall Street, made headlines earlier this year for admonishing fellow bankers to brace themselves for a looming economic “hurricane,” revealing that his financial institution took measures to be “very conservative” with its balance sheet.
Dimon also pointed to geopolitical turmoil such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine as an important consideration for economic actors. Members of the G7 and the European Union moved to cap the price of Russian seaborne oil exports this week at $60 per barrel worldwide; many European nations have witnessed soaring energy prices as a result of nixed Russian natural gas shipments.
“You have this economy, but then you have oil, food, fertilizer, war, humanitarian crisis. We have not had a war in Europe like this since 1945,” Dimon remarked. “A lot of emerging market economies, that a lot of people don’t focus on, are going to pay a heavy price for the strong dollar, higher rates, and higher oil prices.”
Various protest movements have spread through the developing world as businesses and consumers grow increasingly constrained by rising fuel and energy costs. Farmers in nations such as Greece, Peru, and Sri Lanka launched demonstrations in cities as a result of high fertilizer prices, leading the government of the latter nation to flee abroad.
Dimon also cited the rollback of loose monetary policy from the Federal Reserve as a significant phenomenon. He predicted that the central bank would spend “three to six months” holding rates at 5% before continuing efforts to battle inflation.
Recent employment data showing high demand among businesses recruiting new workers will likely lead monetary policymakers to continue hiking interest rates. Some analysts have criticized the Federal Reserve for causing undue harm through their zeal to manage inflation soon after a prolonged increase in the money supply.