Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Wells Fargo CEO optimistic about 2014

Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf said Tuesday that he expects the U.S. economy to continue to improve in 2014, but it won't be a "breakout year."

Stumpf, speaking at an investor conference in New York, said businesses and consumers remain cautious in what he called a "challenging economic environment." He, like other bankers, say that such caution is resulting in tepid demand for loans.

With the new year just three weeks away, Stumpf said he's encouraged by U.S. job growth, continued strengthening of the housing sector and government progress toward reaching a budget deal.

"The economy's healing," he said, according to a Bloomberg transcript.

"I don't think 2014 is going to be a breakout year, but I do think it will show the continued improvement we saw in 2013," he said. "And as I'm talking with customers, especially our small-business and middle-market customers, I'm starting to hear a little more about expanding the business, building a new building, another product line and so forth. So, as we look to the year, I'm optimistic."

Stumpf said the bank is watching its expenses closely. This year, the bank laid off thousands of employees in its mortgage unit amid lower demand from consumers to refinance home loans. Other banks have also announced similar layoffs this year. Fewer consumers are refinancing as mortgage rate rise.

"I still think we have room to go on expenses," Stumpf said. "We think we're pretty good in the expense side, but we can get even better."

Stumpf delivered his comments a day after the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce's annual Economic Outlook Conference, at which executives from some of Charlotte’s biggest corporations said Charlotte and the nation can expect slow economic growth next year as the nation’s businesses struggle with weak consumer spending and uncertainty about state and federal policies.


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