Capital markets have very little capacity to deal with a move in real interest rates, Barclays Chief Executive Jes Staley told a panel during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The American banker and former J.P. Morgan CEO outlined the positive fundamentals of today's economy, but issued caution over what he saw as major risk areas, speaking during a panel entitled "The Next Financial Crisis." Real interest rates, unlike nominal rates, are adjusted for inflation.
"Given asset valuations, given that we've got 4 percent global economic growth, it seems like we're in a pretty good place right now economically. But we've got a monetary policy which still seems like it's in the remnants of the depression era," Staley said.
Financial markets have been enjoying the benefits of a global growth upswing and prolonged low interest rates 10 years after the 2008 recession, as major indexes like the Dow Jones and S&P 500 continue to hit record highs. While many investors are celebrating the bull run, others caution that historically high stock market valuations combined with rising global debt are a recipe for financial disaster.
"If there is going be another financial crisis, my bet is most crises are where we run into something that was totally obvious but we all missed it," Staley went on.
"There's something out there in the capital markets. Given that equity markets are at an all-time high and volatility is at an all-time low, that's not a sustainable proposition."
The Barclays chief doesn't think the trigger will come from the banks, however. Referencing the stress tests carried out on banks like Barclays, Staley insisted that the same stress test be applied to the rest of the economy.
"Given where our debt levels are, given our exposure to low interest rates, if we do have another economic cycle — which I would argue we will — I think the capital markets will be tested."