US Banks Face 'Headwinds' But Aren't 'Zombies': Dimon

Jamie Dimon
Jamie Dimon

U.S. banks may be facing numerous headwinds, but they are not "zombies," Jamie Dimon told CNBC Wednesday.

"I love Meredith and all that but, honestly, most of that stuff is hogwash," the CEO of JPMorgan Chase said, referring to well-known analyst Meredith Whitney, who told CNBC earlier in the day that large U.S. banks are "turning into zombies" because they have little net worth but are backed by the government and continue to meet their obligations.

"All businesses have things that change all the time—interest rates, commodity prices, cost of wages, demand, supply—and you have to manage around that," Dimon said during a bus tour of California Chase branches. "That's not to say there's not negatives against banks. Bad economy is a headwind, volatility may not be but people being scared is a headwind."

Financial stocks and fear that France would lose its triple-A credit rating were among the many things scaring investors and leading the market drastically lower on Wednesday. Bank stocks in particular have been hammered by worries about their exposure to French banks.

Dimon said he "is comfortable" with JPMorgan Chase's exposure in Europe.

"We've been in Europe for hundreds of years," he said. "We have manageable exposures to all the banks. We're not going to cut and run."

The Standard & Poor's downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, which threw the stock market into freefall Monday, is "just an opinon," Dimon said. "It’s a well thought through opinion...But most of the people I speak to in the marketplace, the big participants, they don’t rely on S&P ratings to make their decisions."

However, he agrees with S&P that "the United States needs to show fiscal discipline. We need to show it for ourselves, not because of China, not because of S&P...I’m hopeful we can show that soon."

He criticized the Obama administration for a lack of "consistent, coherent policy" but is "thrilled" Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is staying on. No, Dimon said, he was never interested in the job, adding, "If you know me at all, I am not suited for politics. Anyone who runs a company and gets out in the field would say the same things I do."