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Jamie Dimon says the Fed only has a 33% chance to avoid a recession

May 4, 2022, 4:51 PM UTC

With inflation rising to a four-decade high and economic growth forecasts being slashed, predictions of an impending U.S. recession are becoming widespread.

Now even Jamie Dimon, who has led the largest bank in America for over 15 years and emerged during that time as a leading voice on Wall Street about all kinds of issues, is sounding the alarm.

The JPMorgan Chase CEO said on Wednesday that the Federal Reserve’s chances of achieving a “soft landing” for the U.S. economy—where inflation is curbed without instigating a recession—stand at just 33%.

Dimon put the odds of the U.S. entering a mild recession at 33%. And the other 33%? Well, he argued those are the chances of a more severe scenario.

“The odds are the following: something like, yes, they can engineer a soft landing, a third of a percent chance. Probably a third of a percent chance they can engineer a mild recession…and then there’s a chance this could be much harder than that,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg.

Dimon’s comments come ahead of the Federal Reserve’s May meeting, when officials are set to unleash the most aggressive interest rate increases in decades in hopes of taming rising inflation. 

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is expected to raise interest rates by a half point on Wednesday and announce plans to reduce the size of its nearly $9 trillion balance sheet. Dimon argued that central bank officials have been behind the curve in addressing inflation: “The sooner they move, the better.”

“If they can, they are going to try and slow down the economy enough so that 8% [inflation] starts to come down over time,” Dimon said in his Wednesday interview. “I wish them the best. We’re a little late, but remember, two years ago, we had 15% unemployment and no vaccine.”

Where Dimon stands compared to the rest 

The CEO’s criticism of the Fed falls in line with a number of top economists and analysts on Wall Street who say the central bank has been slow to move away from the ultra-accommodative monetary policies that proved so effective during the height of the pandemic.

Perhaps the Fed’s most prominent critic, Mohamed El-Erian, the chief economic adviser at Allianz and president of Queens’ College in Cambridge, England, has been calling for central bank officials to raise rates and combat rising inflation for months now, arguing the U.S. is in the midst of a “cost-of-living crisis.”

“The bond market believes inflation is too high, the Fed is well behind the curve, and the Fed risks…pushing the economy into recession as it tries to catch up,” El-Erian told CNBC in a March 28 interview.

Despite giving a downtrodden economic forecast, Dimon noted that the U.S. still has a “very strong” economy at the moment, and consumers have cash to spend. 

To his point, U.S. household spending rose 1.1% in March as consumers put their extra cash into dining and travel with pandemic restrictions fading, the Commerce Department said Friday. The unemployment rate also sits at just 3.6%, and the U.S. economy added roughly a quarter-million jobs in April, ADP data shows.

“The consumer is in great shape, lots of money, spending the money. Jobs are plentiful, wages are going up. Everything’s distorted by inflation and all that, but those are good news,” Dimon said. “Businesses are in great shape.”

Still, Dimon’s comments about the chances of a recession stand in stark contrast to his rosy view of current U.S. economic strength. And a growing chorus of recession predictions from Wall Street paints a bleak picture of U.S. economic prospects through next year.

Now even Main Street is fearing the worst, with more than 80% of U.S. adults saying they believe a recession is coming this year, according to an April CNBC survey conducted by Momentive. Less than half (47%) of Americans believe the economy will improve within the next year, according to an Allianz Life Quarterly Market Perceptions Study released last week.

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