Mnuchin to convene 'Plunge Protection Team' after call to top bankers

Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin called the CEOs of the nation's six largest banks on Sunday amid a continued precipitous decline in the markets in recent weeks. 


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.

Of course, the Treasury Department knows that the banks have "ample liquidity," so this call was just a dog and pony show to calm nervous investors.

The same could be said of Mnuchin's plan to convene the "Plunge Protection Team," which last met in 2009 at the end of the recession.

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 is sometimes referred to 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.

Signals, signals, and more signals.  Investors are a skittish lot and react to just about every bit of news about the economy.  Reassuring the markets is one of the functions of government, so Mnuchin is just doing his job.

Are we headed for a recession?  Investors crave global stability, and right now, things are a bit unsettled with the U.S.-China trade war, the Fed hiking interest rates, and politicians unable to get their act together to run the government.  Other factors include the unrest in France, the political instability in Great Britain and the E.U., and a slowing of the Chinese economy.  The underlying strength of the U.S. economy hasn't changed and is still on a strong growth path.

Unless something really alarming happens, there's little chance of a recession in the near future.

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