Banking System Will Need Another $500 Billion: Gross

Bill Gross
Bill Gross

The banking system needs another $500 billion to survive beyond the $700 billion rescue plan being contemplated by Congress, said Pimco founder Bill Gross.

Gross said on CNBC that the government bailout plan will help free up bank balance sheets so they can start lending again, but will provide only about $50 billion in real capital to the system.

"The plan goes far but it doesn't go far enough in terms of recapitalization," he said. "The banking system and the investment banking system in total really requires about $500 billion more. Where that comes from is still up in the air."

The Federal Reserve will need to step in to quell fears of counterparty risk—the worry that one partner in a deal won't hold up its end--and provide assurance that it will be a clearinghouse to make sure transactions get done, Gross said.

"There's a lack of trust anywhere in terms of other counterparties," he said. "The Fed to a certain extent has to assume this level of counterparty risk. It has to be a clearinghouse. Otherwise things don't get done."

(Watch the accompanying video for the full interview with Bill Gross...)

On the economy, he predicted tough sledding in 2009, with an unemployment rate of 7 percent that he called "not tragic but certainly not good for the millions of Americans who are going to be out of jobs."

Gross supports the bailout proposal but said the government will find itself with more work to do.

"We're all in favor of this program," he said. "We've advocated it. To suggest otherwise is something I shouldn't do, but I think there are additional steps that need to be taken down the road."