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Jamie Dimon, the chairman and CEO of J. P. Morgan Chase, said Thursday the current market volatility can be attributed to a variety of worries about political risk and oil prices, but the issue "that's probably roiling the market the most is trade."
"How bad is it going to get?" Dimon asked during an interview with CNBC's Becky Quick. Dimon said traders, executives and other market watchers are trying to figure that out and are factoring it into their outlooks.
The U.S. economy is strong, Dimon said. Companies are hiring, consumers are spending, unemployment is down, he noted. But stocks have been volatile. On Thursday, they fell sharply and then tried to recover some of that ground in the afternoon. As of 2:25 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 454 points.
The U.S. under the Trump administration has engaged in an escalating trade war with China, though the two sides are talking and set a 90 day time frame from Dec. 1 to get an agreement.
Dimon called it a trade "skirmish." But it is forcing business leaders to find new supply lines, rethink investments or hold off on investments. "Those things are just causing uncertainty, which causes volatility."
Dimon was in Washington along with the top executives of other large companies to attend the Business Roundtable's CEO Innovation Summit. The head of the biggest U.S. bank was just elected chairman of the lobbying group for third year as executives face a the second half of President Donald Trump's term.
Trump's early policies, including tax cuts last year, have been seen as business friendly but there are challenges, such as the possibility of slowing economic growth and the effects of Trump's tariffs on American companies.
Dimon says he doesn't expect the U.S. and China to come to final terms on their trade negotiations in three months, but they should be able to make progress. He places the likelihood of an agreement at 60 percent but says there's always a risk that something goes south. "That kind of uncertainty is just not good for markets."