‘It’s a hurricane’: Jamie Dimon tells investors to prepare for rough economic times ahead

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon forecasts an economic “hurricane” and advises investors to prepare for market volatility as the Fed tightens its monetary policy and Russia continues to wage war in Ukraine.

Dimon warned in May of “storm clouds” looming over the U.S. economy. He revised that assessment Wednesday at an annual conference sponsored by AllianceBernstein.

“I said there were storm clouds, big storm clouds,” Dimon said. Now “it’s a hurricane.” 

He added that even though the economy seems “fine” at the moment and “everyone thinks the Fed can handle this,” rough times are on their way. 

“We don’t know if it’s a minor one or Superstorm Sandy. You better brace yourself,” Dimon told the room’s investors. “JPMorgan is bracing ourselves, and we’re going to be very conservative with our balance sheet.” Dimon only spoke in weather metaphors during the conference, and did not forecast a recession.

In early May, Dimon said the U.S. had just a one-in-three chance of avoiding a recession because of those stormy clouds. 

At AllianceBernstein, Dimon attributed his changed forecast to two factors: the Fed’s quantitative tightening in financial markets and the ramifications of the Ukraine war on global commodity markets. 

Quantitative tightening refers to policies that reduce the size of the Fed’s balance sheet and deplete the money supply floating around in the economy, reversing the quantitative easing the Fed turned to amid the economic calamities of 2008 and, more recently, 2020.

“We’ve never had QT like this, so you’re looking at something you could be writing history books on for 50 years,” Dimon said. “They do not have a choice because there’s so much liquidity in the system. They have to remove some of the liquidity to stop the speculation, reduce home prices and stuff like that.”

Dimon also expressed concern over uncertainty surrounding the war in Ukraine and its “unintended consequences” for the world’s wheat, oil, and gas markets.

“We’re not taking the proper actions to protect Europe from what’s going to happen in oil in the short run, and we’re not taking the proper actions to protect you all from what’s going to happen in oil in the next five years,” he said. “Which means it almost has to go up in price.”

Other major investors, including Grantham, Mayo, and van Otterloo’s Jeremy Grantham and Wells Fargo CEO Charlie Scharf, have recently shared similarly gloomy outlooks

In May, Grantham cast doubt on the Fed’s ability to repair the impact of its past monetary policies, including near-zero interest rates and quantitative easing or purchases of mortgage-backed securities and government bonds to increase the money supply. 

Scharf predicted in late May that there is “no question” the U.S. is heading for an economic downturn.

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