We're in a recession
By Joseph A. Giannone
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, who once led Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs, on Wednesday told Reuters the U.S. economy already is in a recession that could persist, and that federal authorities have only taken the first steps toward turning things around.
"I certainly concur with the view that we are in a recession," Corzine said in an exclusive interview at Reuters' U.S. headquarters in New York. "We have pretty strong indications that we have seen a major, major downshift in the economy. I think we'll find we started in the last quarter of last year."
The New Jersey Democrat became governor of the 11th largest state last year after a short stint as U.S. senator and a 24-year career at Goldman Sachs. Corzine rose through the ranks as a bond trader to become chairman and CEO of what is now the world's largest securities firm, and he played a key role in its 1999 conversion from a partnership to a public company.
Corzine spoke the same day a quarterly survey of corporate finance chiefs found 54 percent believed recession has already begun and would last longer than other recent downturns.
The U.S. central bank, eager to stave off an economic contraction, has cut benchmark rates five times by a combined 2.25 percentage points since September to 3.0 percent.
And on Tuesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve said it would lend $200 billion of Treasuries to primary dealers and accept mortgages as collateral to ease liquidity pressures on banks. These efforts, Corzine said, are only a start.
While "$200 billion is a very large number, it is relatively insignificant in the overall scheme: trillions of dollars in the mortgage market," he said. "It's a really good start, but it's probably not going to change the ocean of credit that's extended in the mortgage arena."
Corzine suggested the Fed would cut benchmark rates again next week, lowering yields for low risk assets and putting pressure on investors to buy other assets. He also predicted that the Fed may intervene again to support the banking system, though it tends to take small steps.