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CNBC Exclusive: CNBC Transcript: TIAA-CREF President & CEO Roger Ferguson Speaks with CNBC’s Kelly Evans on “Closing Bell” Today

WHEN: Today, Tuesday, August 25th

WHERE: CNBC's "Closing Bell"

Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with TIAA-CREF President and CEO Roger Ferguson on CNBC's "Closing Bell" (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET) today. All references must be sourced to CNBC.

KELLY EVANS: FROM YESTERDAY'S SELL-OFF TO TODAY'S BIG RALLY AND THEN THE DRAMATIC SUBSEQUENT DECLINE, HOW ARE INSTITUTIONAL INVESTORS MAKING SENSE OF IT ALL? TIAA-CREF HAS OVER 5 MILLION CUSTOMERS AND NEARLY $900 BILLION IN ASSETS UNDER MANAGEMENT. IN A CNBC EXCLUSIVE, I AM NOW JOINED BY FORMER FEDERAL RESERVE VICE CHAIR ROGER FERGUSON NOW PRESIDENT AND CEO OF TIAA-CREF. WELCOME TO YOU.

ROGER FERGUSON: THANK YOU VERY MUCH, KELLY. A PLEASURE TO BE HERE.

EVANS: YOU'VE SEEN SO MANY MARKETS, YOU'VE STUDIED THEM AS DEEPLY AS ANYBODY. WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF WHAT WE ARE LOOKING AT TODAY?

FERGUSON: WELL, I SEE TWO OR THREE FORCES AT WORK HERE. OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS OBVIOUSLY THERE'S BEEN CONCERNS ABOUT GLOBAL MARKETS, GLOBAL GROWTH EMERGING PARTICULARLY OUT OF CHINA. THAT HAD A BIG IMPACT YESTERDAY AND THEN WE SAW THE MARKET SORT OF PULL ITSELF TOGETHER A LITTLE BIT. I THINK WHAT WE ARE SEEING MORE RECENTLY THOUGH IS A COMBINATION OF THE FACT THE U.S. ECONOMY IS STILL GROWING REASONABLY WELL, EARNINGS LOOK PRETTY STRONG. SO THAT THROWS INTO QUESTION, GEE, IS THE FED LIKELY TO MOVE? AND THEN WE ALSO HAVE STILL THE QUESTION OF ARE EXTERNAL WEAKNESSES GOING TO SPILL OVER IN SOME WAY THAT WE DON'T YET FORSEE HERE?

EVANS: EXACTLY. PEOPLE ARE DRAWING COMPARISONS TO THE LATE '90s ASIAN FINANCIAL CRISIS. TODAY CHINA KIND OF POINTED THE FINGER BACK AT THE U.S. SAYING IT'S BECAUSE MARKET'S LISTENING TO THE FED AND THINKING ABOUT A RATE HIKE THAT ALL OF THIS IS HAPPENING. ARE THEY RIGHT ABOUT THAT?

FERGUSON: LOOK, I THINK THERE IS A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING GOING ON. FIRST, I DON'T THINK THIS IS LIKE THE ASIAN CRISIS. WHILE THE ASIAN CRISIS WAS DRIVEN BY FIXED EXCHANGE RATE, COUNTRIES THAT HAD NOT PUT ASIDE ENOUGH IN THE WAY OF RESERVES SUDDENLY GETTING SWEPT UP IN A DOWN DRAFT. WE SEE SOMETHING DIFFERENT NOW FROM THE EMERGING WORLD. CURRENCIES ARE FLEXIBLE. WE'VE SEEN CURRENCIES REFLECT THE WEAKNESSES OF SOME OF THOSE ECONOMIES. CHINA HAS BECOME A MUCH BIGGER STORY, OBVIOUSLY. WITH RESPECT TO YOU KNOW, IS THE FED PART OF THE STORY HERE? ALWAYS TO SOME DEGREE. THERE IS NO QUESTION WHEN THE FED IS TALKING ABOUT IN A PUBLIC SENSE THE POSSIBILITY OF RAISING RATES, SURE. THAT MIGHT HAVE AN IMPACT ON SOME EQUITY BUYERS.

EVANS: IS THIS, IN YOUR YOU KNOW, JUST AS AN INDEPENDENT OBSERVER POINT OF VIEW, THE RIGHT TIME, THE APPROPRIATE TIME, FOR THE FED TO RAISE INTEREST RATES?

FERGUSON: I LIKE THE WAY YOU DESCRIBE ME AS AN INDEPENDENT OBSERVER AND YOU INTRODUCED ME AS FORMER FED VICE CHAIRMAN.

EVANS: WELL, WE HAVE HINTED AT THAT AS WELL.

FERGUSON: SO LOOK, I THINK THE ANSWER IS THE FED IS CONFRONTING A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT FORCES THAT WILL PLAY INTO THEIR DECISION MAKING. FIRST, LABOR MARKETS CLEARLY HAVE BEEN STRENGTHENING FOR SOME TIME. MANY PEOPLE THINK, GEE, MAYBE WE ARE ALMOST AT FULL EMPLOYMENT OR AT LEAST THE SLACK THAT WAS THERE HAS BEEN REDUCED. SECONDLY, INFLATION HAS BEEN RELATIVELY LOW, BUT THE FED MODELS SUGGEST THAT THAT MIGHT PICK UP. AND THEN THE THIRD OBVIOUSLY HAS TO DO WITH THIS VOLATILITY IN MARKETS. AND SO WHEN THEY GET TO THEIR MEETING IN A COUPLE OF WEEKS, I THINK THOSE ARE THE THREE FORCES THAT THEY ARE GOING TO BE CONSIDERING.

EVANS: BUT IF IT CAME DOWN TO TODAY AND TODAY'S CONDITIONS, JEFF GUNDLACH SAID IF YOU WERE ON MARS AND JUST LOOKED AT CONDITIONS TODAY, YOU WOULD NEVER SAY THE FED SHOULD HIKE RIGHT NOW. DO YOU THINK CONDITIONS ARE APPROPRIATE FOR THEM TO DO SO?

FERGUSON: I THINK IF YOU LOOK AT TODAY'S CONDITIONS, YOU WOULD SAY LOOK, FINANCIAL CONDITIONS HAVE PROBABLY TIGHTENED A LITTLE BIT. THE DOLLAR IS A LITTLE STRONGER. INFLATIONARY PRESSURES FROM THAT THEREFORE ARE LIKELY TO WEAKEN. BUT WE KNOW THE FED IS CERTAINLY THINKING ABOUT IT. AND SO I WOULD OBSERVE, LET'S NOT TRY TO MAKE IT A CALL ON TODAY'S CONDITIONS. SEE HOW THE INCOMING DATA DRIVERS, WHERE DOES THE FED END UP IN SEPTEMBER, THE NEXT COUPLE OF MEETINGS. I THINK MARKETS WILL BE VERY INTERESTED. THOSE ARE THE CONDITIONS, THOSE ARE THE QUESTIONS, I THINK THAT ARE ON EVERYONE'S MINDS.

EVANS: AND IN THE MEANTIME, YOU GUYS HAVE TO PUT MONEY TO WORK EVERY SINGLE DAY IN THESE MARKETS. SO TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS AFTER WE SEE A SHARP DECLINE LIKE THIS. DOES IT MEAN ACTUALLY TO HIT YOUR BALANCE TARGETS THAT YOU GUYS YOU PUT MORE MONEY INTO STOCKS? HOW DOES THAT WORK?

FERGUSON: THE REALITY IS OUR PORTFOLIO MANAGERS EACH HAVE A LIST OF THE EQUITIES THAT THEY MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN. THEY MAY LOOK AT THESE PRICES AND SAY THAT LOOKS TO ME LIKE A REALLY GOOD TIME TO START TO BUY MORE, IF YOU WILL. BUT WE ARE VERY MUCH INTERESTED IN FUNDAMENTAL POINTS OF VIEW. WE ALSO CLEARLY ENCOURAGE AND TAKE A LONG-TERM PERSPECTIVE. AND SO WE DON'T GET OVERLY EXCITED ABOUT THE UPS AND DOWNS. AND THE FINAL THING TO RECOGNIZE ABOUT US, MAY DIFFERENTIATE US FROM OTHERS, IS WE ARE BROADLY DIVERSIFIED. SO IT'S EQUITIES, FIXED INCOME, ALTERNATIVES. AND WE THINK THAT IS PART OF THE MODEL FOR CREATING LONG-TERM SUSTAINABLE BENEFITS.

EVANS: AND WHAT IS THE SHARE FOR EACH OF THOSE PIECES?

FERGUSON: THOSE SHARES WILL VARY OVER TIME DEPENDING ON HOW WE THINK THE OUTLOOK MAY LOOK AND WHETHER OR NOT THERE ARE SOME VALUES THERE.

EVANS: I KNOW SOME OF YOUR ALTERNATIVES. PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO KNOW YOU ARE ONE OF THE BIGGEST OWNERS OF ALMOND TREES ON THE PLANET AND ONE OF THE BIGGEST OPERATORS OF COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE.

FERGUSON: YES.

EVANS: YOU KNOW, THERE ARE A VARIETY OF ALTERNATIVES HERE. AND A BIG EMPHASIS ON REAL ESTATE WHICH TIL LATELY, THERE HAS BEEN TALK ABOUT A BUBBLE BUILDING THERE ON THE COMMERCIAL SIDE A LITTLE BIT. SO ARE YOU COMFORTABLE STILL WITH YOUR EXPOSURE TO A VARIETY OF ALTERNATIVES IN THIS ENVIRONMENT?

FERGUSON: WE ARE COMFORTABLE WITH THE EXPOSURE OF VARIETY OF ALTERNATIVES WE RECOGNIZE THAT EACH ONE OF THEM HAS A DIFFERENT CYCLE. SO LET ME TAKE ON THE COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE QUESTION. YES, THAT MARKET HAS BEEN PRETTY STRONG FOR THE LAST FOUR OR FIVE YEARS. HOWEVER, WE SEE CONTINUED STRENGTH THERE FOR A NUMBER OF REASONS. FIRST, LABOR MARKETS ARE IMPROVING. SECONDLY, WE SEE THAT VACANCY RATES ARE COMING DOWN. RENTS ARE INCREASING. AND SO WHILE CAP RATES LOOK STRONG WE WILL PUT IT THAT WAY, WE STILL THINK FOR THE RIGHT PROPERTIES IN THE RIGHT LOCATIONS, THERE'S SOME UPSIDE POTENTIAL.

EVANS: NOW FINALLY ON CHINA TO BRING THIS ALL BACK TO THE ORIGINAL QUESTION THAT IS ON EVERYBODY'S MINDS HEADING INTO THIS EVENING, AGAIN, THEY HAVE CUT RATES FOR THE FIFTH TIME SINCE THE END OF LAST YEAR. MADE OTHER ADJUSTMENTS, BUT IT APPEARS NOTHING THAT IS REALLY SHORING UP INVESTOR CONFIDENCE GLOBALLY. DO YOU THINK THEY NEED A BIGGER BANG KIND OF MOVE RIGHT NOW TO HELP STABILIZE THINGS FOR EVERYBODY?

FERGUSON: MY IMPRESSION OF THE CHINESE IS THAT THEY ARE VERY GOOD AT WORKING THROUGH AND MANAGING THEIR ECONOMIES. AND SO I WOULD EXPECT THEM TO CONTINUE TO FOCUS IN ON THESE ELEMENTS OF STIMULUS. SO I DO THINK THAT THEY NEED TO DRIVE A LITTLE BIT MORE STIMULUS THROUGH THAT ECONOMY TO TRY TO GET TO THE SHORT-TERM OUTCOMES. AT THE SAME TIME, THEY'VE GOT A LONG-TERM STRATEGY OF TRYING TO MOVE INTO MORE OF A CONSUMER-ORIENTED SOCIETY. MAYBE AWAY FROM EXPORTS SO MUCH. AND I THINK THEY ALSO HAVE TO DO THAT PIVOT AS PART OF THEIR LONG-TERM STRATEGY. BUT OVER TIME, I THINK THOUGH IT WILL BE TRICKY FROM DAY TO DAY, I THINK THEY WILL BE ULTIMATELY SUCCESSFUL.

EVANS: ALRIGHT. ROGER, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON A DAY LIKE THIS, ESPECIALLY. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

FERGUSON: THANK YOU. MY PLEASURE.

EVANS: THAT'S ROGER FERGUSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF TIAA-CREF.

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