WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s Treasury secretary called America’s top bankers on Sunday and said he got reassurances about the health of the nation’s banks amid an ongoing rout on Wall Street.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks during his interview with Reuters in Jerusalem October 21, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo
U.S. stocks have plunged in recent weeks on concerns over slowing economic growth, with the S&P 500 index .SPX on pace for its biggest percentage decline in December since the Great Depression.
“Today I convened individual calls with the CEOs of the nation’s six largest banks,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Twitter shortly before financial markets were due to open in Asia.
The Treasury said in a statement that Mnuchin talked with the chief executives of Bank of America (BAC.N), Citi (C.N), Goldman Sachs (GS.N), JP Morgan Chase (JPM.N), Morgan Stanley (MS.N) and Wells Fargo (WFC.N).
“The CEOs confirmed that they have ample liquidity available for lending,” the Treasury said.
Mnuchin “also confirmed that they have not experienced any clearance or margin issues and that the markets continue to function properly,” the Treasury said.
Mnuchin’s calls to the bankers came amid a partial government shutdown that began on Saturday following an impasse in Congress over Trump’s demand for more funds for a wall on the border with Mexico. Financing for about a quarter of federal government programs expired at midnight on Friday and the shutdown could continue to Jan 3.
The Treasury said Mnuchin will convene a call on Monday with the president’s Working Group on Financial Markets, which includes Washington’s main stewards of the U.S. financial system and has been known colloquially as the “Plunge Protection Team.”
The group, which was also convened in 2009 during the latter stage of the financial crisis, includes officials from the Federal Reserve as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Wall Street is also closely following reports that Trump has privately discussed the possibility of firing Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. Mnuchin said on Saturday Trump told him he had “never suggested firing” Powell.
Trump has criticized the U.S. central bank for raising interest rates this year, which could further dampen economic growth. The Fed’s independence is seen as a pillar of the U.S. financial system.
Mnuchin’s calls come as a range of asset classes have suffered steep losses.
In December alone, the S&P 500 .SPX is down nearly 12.5 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC has slumped 13.6 percent. The Nasdaq is now in a bear market, having declined nearly 22 percent from its record high in late August, and the S&P is not far off that level.
Corporate credit markets have been under duress as well, and measures of the investment grade corporate bond market are poised for their worst yearly performance since the 2008 financial crisis.
The high-yield bond market, where companies with the weakest credit profiles raise capital, has not seen a deal all month. The last time that happened was in November 2008.
Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Dan Grebler and Rosalba O’Brien
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Majority of Canadian workers willing to take less pay for a workplace pension plan: survey
A majority (70 per cent) of Canadians say they’re willing to forgo a higher salary in exchange for a workplace pension plan, according to a new survey for the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan by Abacus Data.
The survey, which polled more than 2,000 Canadian adults in April, signals an opportunity for employers to build back the post-coronavirus pandemic working landscape better by expanding access to good retirement plans — whether they’re defined benefit, defined contribution or group registered retirement savings plans, says Steven McCormick, senior vice-president of plan operations at the HOOPP.
According to the survey, a secure retirement remains of greater concern for Canadians than concerns about their health, debt load and job security. McCormick says this has been a consistent worry the HOOPP has seen in survey results over the past couple of years. Nearly half (48 per cent) of respondents said they’re very concerned about having enough money in retirement, while 31 per cent were highly concerned about their personal debt load and 26 per cent cited their job security. Close to half of respondents expressed high concerns for their physical (43 per cent) and mental (40 per cent) health.
In addition, the pandemic has harmed the finances of more than half (52 per cent) of Canadians’ surveyed and it’s had a particularly disproportionate affect on the finances of younger adults. Adults aged 44 and younger said they’re twice as likely (25 per cent) to have had their finances greatly harmed, compared to those over the age of 60 (12 per cent).
Generally, younger adults tend to work in roles that may have been impacted most by the pandemic, says McCormick, whether in service industries that were shut down or frontline health care that have been busy but don’t always come with access to a pension plan. “Affordability is an issue, so I think their worries increased during this time.”
And while almost half (46 per cent) of Canadians surveyed said they’ve saved more money than they would have since the onset of the pandemic, among these respondents, over half (52 per cent) didn’t put any of their savings toward their retirement. Overall, most (63 per cent) Canadians surveyed haven’t set aside or saved anything for retirement in the past year, a five-point increase since 2019.
McCormick says this may be due to uncertainty or hesitancy about whether people’s immediate needs outweigh longer-term needs. And with 55 per cent of respondents noting they were very concerned about the cost of day-to-day living, he adds that rising prices have fuelled insecurity and worries so people are creating their own emergency funds right now.
While there’s a segment of the population who’ve saved more and, for them, the pandemic has created wealth, he doesn’t see this as a common narrative in the survey data. “If you don’t have access to a workplace pension or the opportunity to have things like automatic enrolment, the uncertainty of the time may have you holding onto money,” says McCormick. “In Ontario, we’re more optimistic about the pandemic than we were maybe a month ago, but there are still people worrying about whether there’ll be a fourth wave.”
In addition, more than two-thirds (67 per cent) of respondents said a retirement crisis is looming and 65 per cent said saving for retirement is prohibitively expensive. It’s a common and shared dream for many people in looking forward to a secure retirement, says McCormick, noting for many, making that dream a reality remains elusive.