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Is a recession on the horizon? More bank CEOs think so

By Elisabeth Buchwald, CNN

New York (CNN) — Add Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser to the growing list of bank CEOs who are warning about tough times ahead.

While Fraser doesn’t “see a drastic downturn on the horizon,” the head of the third-largest bank in the United States does see a recession coming, she said in prepared remarks released by the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday ahead of an annual hearing on Wall Street oversight on Wednesday.

That recession could result because of factors including “persistent inflation in services, rising debt [levels], a slowdown in global growth and two major conflicts in Europe and the Middle East.”

On the consumer spending side, Fraser warned lawmakers that Citi data suggests people are pulling back more. That aligns with recent government consumer spending data. At the same time, customers who fall in the lowest band of credit scores are taking on the highest levels of debt since 2019, Fraser is set to say.

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan did not include his thoughts on the economic outlook in his prepared remarks. However, he said that “the way consumers are spending money is leveling out,” in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday. “But all in all [consumers are in] pretty decent shape.”

He also suggested that the Federal Reserve is in the midst of pulling off a soft landing — that is, getting inflation under control without a significant spike in the unemployment rate.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon urged Americans to prepare for a recession last week.

“A lot of things out there are dangerous and inflationary. Be prepared,” he said at the 2023 New York Times DealBook Summit in New York. “Interest rates may go up and that might lead to recession.”

In the remarks for the hearing on Wednesday Fraser publicly acknowledged for the first time a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau investigation alleging the bank illegally discriminated against Armenian Americans for years by singling them out on credit card applications based on their surnames.

“We are deeply sorry and apologize to the Armenian American community that we recently fell short of our fair lending expectations,” Fraser said in her prepared remarks, adding that Citi has “taken action to make things right and prevent any recurrence.”

In addition to Dimon, Fraser and Moynihan, lawmakers will hear testimony from the CEOs of Wells Fargo, State Street, BNY Mellon, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

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