No Reason to Worry About a Bubble Now: Treasury's Lew
With stocks at all-time highs despite only tepid economic growth, there's little sign of a bubble forming in markets, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told CNBC on Thursday.
"There's always going to be concern not to get to a point where we have the seeds of a future crisis," Lew said. "The analysis I've seen doesn't give me reason to be worried right now."
Lew said that policymakers still need to see what's going on in firms and markets, and have the regulatory tools to deal with problems when they develop.
Lew is also determined to finish implementing the Dodd-Frank financial services reform. "The real problem we saw in 2008 and 2009 is our regulatory institutions had not kept pace with the evolution of our financial institutions," he said. "We need to always stay ahead of that curve."
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The Treasury secretary also said that the economy is moving forward and the sense of imminent crisis in Washington has receded. "Towards the end of the year there was a sense of imminent crisis; we're a little bit beyond imminent crisis," Lew said. "We still have a lot of work to do but there doesn't seem to be any push to create a crisis over the debt limit or over shutting down the government. That's helpful."
Lew said that the American economy is resilient and growing, but acknowledged that it needs to grow faster and create more jobs.
And while a strengthening U.S. dollar could undermine U.S. exports, Lew said "A strong dollar is in America's interest and that will continue to be our policy."
Politicians must also deal with sequestration which threatens to shave half-a-percentage point off growth and cut 750,000 jobs.
"I think that there is a growing number of members on a bipartisan basis who want to do something sensible and not have sequestration," Lew said.
He added that "The right thing for the American people would be for us to have a sensible agreement where we do entitlement reform and we raise some more revenue in the context of tax reform."
While talks are at early stages, the Treasury secretary expects the problem can be worked through over the coming weeks and months.
Lew's first overseas trip will be to China given the importance of the relationship in terms of the impact on growth of the world economy. "It's a good idea to get those conversations going right from the start and to have the kind of relationship where you can raise the issues you need to with each other," he said.
Lew noted that the U.S. has raised concerns over the years about access to markets, that currencies should be determined through the markets and intellectual property.
He added, "The issues that the U.S. and China have are serious."