Dimon on housing

by PlanMaestro

I could not have said it better, with such a command of the facts, while impromptu in a conference call Q&A. Demographics help the United States, it is not turning Japanese.

And he does not fall in the temptation of making a prediction. Impressive.

Yes, so let me answer the first in part. I think what you need to see is employment. That’s what you need to see because employment, in our opinion, will drive household formation.

But if you look at the other factors, okay, we’ve been destroying more homes than we build in the last several years. We’ve added 10 million Americans. We’re going to add 3 million Americans every year for the next 10 years, that’s 30 million Americans who need 13 million in drawings or something like that.

Household formation has been half what it normally is, and most economists tell you that’s going to come back with job creation. And the so-called shadow inventory is coming down, not going up.

So for all the chatter about it, it is very high. Rental in half the markets in America is not cheaper to rent than to buy — it’s cheaper to buy than to rent. Housing is an all-time affordability and my guess is, is that mortgage underwriting will loosen, not tighten.

So if we put all of those things together, you’re going to have a turn at one point. Look, I don’t know if it’s 3 months, 6 months, 9 months. But it’s getting closer.

PS: Having read it twice, this was a feisty conference call. You just have to feel sorry for the analysts. Let me add a couple of extras, here is a good one after a nonsense question,

As I said, we’re not macroeconomists, okay? If you want to know about that you should seek that out yourself.

On media looking for an angle,

By the way, I just got a note that one of the newspapers out there thinks that we haven’t done a full disclosure on Europe. The reason we didn’t add our European business, it’s pretty much like it was last quarter, not much has changed, so if anyone’s interested.

On Basel confusion,

Let me answer your confusion here a second, okay? We’re running Basel I, Basel II, Basel 2.5 and Basel III. Remember, the European banks early on in effect of Basel 2.5. So they just have to go from 2.5 to 3, where the American banks had to go from 1 to 3.

And so when they say it has to get to 9%, it’s not Tier 1 Common, it’s Tier 1 Core, which is slightly different, by June of 2012, that’s an accelerated, getting there already. And they’ve already got, I’d say most of Basel III in there, maybe a little longer than that. But I think most of Basel III is already incorporated in Basel 2.5.

On headcount growth,

No, we’re not pulling back.

In the overhead number, I think we already mentioned the $50 billion is, I believe, going to be pretty consistent so far for next year. And the headcount, let me split it 3 things.

We are always gaining efficiencies which you don’t see. In tech, ops, overhead, a whole bunch of stuff.

And we’ve added and we break it out, and you’ve got to do it by business, with branches. So we’ve added 3,000 salespeople in branches in Consumer, some of that is in the new branches, some of that is in existing branches. We’re adding private bankers, we’re adding branches overseas. We opened 20 branches overseas, mostly for TS&S. So all those things add people.

And for the biggest add, which we’ll not be adding any more, was to handle default. So there’s — I’ve got the total number, we’ve added 15,000 people the last 2 years, maybe more, just to handle default mortgage, in mortgage. That number has probably peaked and I think you’ll see it coming down in the next couple of years.

And add this recent “issue” of releasing reserves,

we have a $9 billion reserves we don’t need, okay? So until we get through all of this, I’m sure we’ll just add them up. But basically, the numbers have gone too good over time to leave up that amount of reserves under current accounting. There’s going to be a change in accounting. But that’s not — we’ll worry about that when we get there.

Analysts must like to be handed their heads off. They were jumping over themselves to get into that queue. But that was not all, there is some clear thinking in this conference call of a man that wants to do the best for shareholders.

Dividends is a small decision from capital standpoint, so that raise a little bit here, that’s not going to be material. We still — we started the dividend again, we’d like to increase a little bit every year. It’s a board decision.

And the stock is very cheap and particularly below tangible book value, I’d like to buy a lot back which, of course, we can’t do. By the time we’re allowed to buy a lot of stock back, I’m sure it’s going to be much higher priced and then we may change our decision about that.

So you can get a little frustration in my — in about how we’ve had to do our capital buyback. But we are getting more clarity from the Fed. The Fed has asked for these stress tests. The stress test, all the banks have put in their CCAR and we are going to tell you what that is when we get it back. 

So, but I’m not going to change the statement I made at the Goldman conference, which was, we hoped to be able to do a little more than we did in 2011.

Jamie Dimon’s conference calls and letters shoot from the hip and are always fun. I wish he had not also taken the role of spokesman for the industry so I have to be skeptical of his views regarding regulation. What can I say, he let it go and that is what is probably going to appear on the headlines.