Worry over impending US recession might actually cause one, JP Morgan's retail chief says

Harriet Taylor | CNBC
Gordon Smith, JPMorgan Chase

Concern about when a near-historic U.S. economic expansion might end could actually hasten the arrival of the next recession, according to J.P. Morgan Chase Co-President Gordon Smith.

"This late-cycle recession has the potential to become a self-fulfilling prophecy," Smith said Tuesday during a financial conference held in New York.

"There is a great deal of volatility in the equity markets, a great deal of conversation around how late we are in the cycle and worry about the cycle," Smith said. "That will ultimately lead to business confidence deteriorating, it will ultimately lead to [corporate] reductions in spending, that will ultimately lead to a shorter work week for hourly-paid people, which will ultimately lead to unemployment beginning to rise, and we would've developed our own recession."

To be clear, Smith — who runs J.P. Morgan's mammoth consumer banking division — began the discussion by saying that the U.S. economy looks "extremely strong." Unemployment is at the lowest rate since 1969 and there are few hot spots of worry when it comes to consumer credit, he said.

Given those signs, he is "optimistic" about economic growth over the next one to two years, he said. Still, there is the risk that people trigger an earlier recession.

"All the data would suggests that the economy is strong," Smith said. "But there is the danger, that just through the rhetoric and the concern, that we actually do push ourselves into an earlier recession than we normally would have."

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