During the Fed Chairman’s press conference today, Bernanke got a tough question from dopeboy Dimon. He asked:
“Has anyone bothered to study the cumulative effect of these things, and do you have the fear, like I do, that when we look at it all, it will be the reason” why banks aren’t lending, he asked. “Is this holding us back at this point?”
He goes on to mention that exotic derivatives are few and far between now, boards and regulators are tougher, banks’ liquidity and capital levels are very high, and lending practices are far tighter than in the past. On top of that, the new proposed 3% surcharge for “big banks” out of the Basel III discussions has created even more uncertainty.
People have been fuckin’ loving Jamie Dimon over the past year or two. JPMorgan is arguably on top of the financial sector right now, especially with GS on the ropes. One of the issues with him asking this question all the way down in Atlanta is pretty obvious: why did he have to ask such a basic (but important) question in a public forum? Two possibilities. The first is he’s had this conversation with Bernanke before, but didn’t get the answer he wanted. Asking it in front of an international audience might force Bernanke to give a different, crowd-pleasing answer. The second, and more intriguing one is that he’s actually never been able to ask the question. In other words, he’s tried to get an answer out of the Fed (preferably Bernanke) and has never gotten one. If that’s the case, then that’s not good. Even though conspiracy theorists would consider it a sign of our impending enslavement to the Fed, the CEO of JPMorgan should be able to have a conversation with the Chairman of the Fed pretty easily.
Now I’d love to have a strong opinion on this, but there’s not much of a point to that. Banking regulations could be a reason for slow growth (strict lending reduces consumer spending), but businesses are borrowing at ridiculously low levels. Corporate capital accumulation and investment is very strong right now. The uncertainty in the banking sector could just as easily be a symptom of the slow recovery. Some of that chicken or the egg bullshit I guess.