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Expect nice economic surprise: Wells Fargo CEO

The U.S. economy is "stronger than people think," Wells Fargo Chairman and CEO John Stumpf told CNBC on Thursday.

"We were all surprised by the first-quarter GDP," he said in a "Squawk Box" interview. "Who knows what second quarter will be, but I think it will surprise on the upside."

Gross domestic product contracted at a 2.9 percent annual rate the first quarter, the economy's worst performance in five years. Economists expect GDP to growth around 3 percent in the second quarter.

Read MoreAs Wells Fargo goes, so goes the nation?

If you exclude housing, Stumpf said, the economy is better now than it was during the boom years of 200 to 2008.

"Energy is booming, way better than it was then, ... autos, they might sell 17 million new vehicles this year." He also said U.S. manufacturing is coming back and so is agriculture.

Read MoreWells Fargo posts earnings of $1.01 a share

"Commercial real estate, I was in Atlanta yesterday, you'd think there was a crane convention there. You go to almost every city, there are cranes everywhere," Stumpf said.

On the residential side of real estate, the Wells Fargo CEO said he's "quite bullish," noting that housing is up 8 percent year over year. But he did have some concerns.

Read MoreForeclosure activity at lowest level in 8 years

"There's this view that credit is not as available, which is true in some cases. There's a lack of [home] inventory. In other cases, borrowers can't qualify. Student debt has some influence."

Stumpf said Wells Fargo's wide-ranging businesses reflect the larger economy.

"People think of us as mortgage … but there's 89 other businesses. We're the largest auto lender. We do more commercial estate, more energy, more [agriculture], more middle market, more small business," he said.


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—By CNBC's Matthew J. Belvedere

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