Bank of America Chairman and CEO Brian Moynihan said Wednesday that U.S. individual investors and consumers are hanging in amid the global turmoil created by concerns about China’s economic slowdown and the plunge in oil prices.
“You can’t get out of the way of the issues,” he told on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “[But] the American consumer, plus the American investor, really hasn’t moved a lot of money.”
“The institutional world is moving around because that’s what they do,” he continued. “But the general population hasn’t really adjusted to this yet. We’ll see what happens.”
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On Tuesday, BofA joined other lenders in expressing concerns about weak oil prices, after the No. 2 U.S. bank by assets reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings, though revenue fell slightly short of estimates.
Bank of America said its provision for credit losses in global banking increased by $264 million in the quarter that ended Dec. 31, mainly due to higher energy-related charges and reserve increases for energy exposure.
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“The next $10 [down on oil] has less of an impact sort of relatively to the first $30, $40, $50 [per barrel]” for U.S. producers, Moynihan said, but added American consumers continue to benefit from lower crude that yield cheaper gasoline prices.
“This oil impact to the American economy — which is $18 trillion, $12 trillion consumer spending — is worth just to our consumers $20 million a day that they have to spend on something else,” he said.
Even as crude plummeted this month, Moynihan said: “Consumers are spending at a higher rate of growth over last January. It’s almost up to 5 percent to 6 percent,” with cheap gasoline accounting for about 1 percent of that growth.
“Consumer spending for every quarter in 2015 grew at a faster rate versus the quarter in 2014, all the way through the fourth quarter, which was the strongest of the four [last year],” he said.
“If the consumer-led economy in the U.S. continues to push forward,” he continued, “that will be a good anchor,” coupled with a low unemployment rate and little sign of inflation pressures.