Wall Street elite find it hard to bank on Trump's breakup talk

Tue May 2, 2017 3:24pm EDT
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By Lawrence Delevingne, Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Olivia Oran

NEW YORK (Reuters) - At an annual gathering of the world's most powerful thinkers and trendsetters in Beverly Hills this week, business leaders and major investors said they have gotten used to dismissing most things that President Donald Trump says or tweets.

On panels at the Milken Institute Global Conference, CEOs and billionaires were generally enthusiastic about Trump's mission to reform healthcare, cut taxes, reduce regulations and stimulate the economy. Panelists including JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N: Quote) CEO Jamie Dimon and hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin offered positive remarks about the president and urged attendees to give him more time to accomplish such sizeable goals.

But in interviews on the sidelines, the Wall Street set was far more dubious that Trump can get anything done.

"I don't take Trump seriously," said a senior executive at one of the country's six largest banks. "I'm listening less and less."

Like most who wanted to share their more candid views privately, the executive spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering the president, his employer or business associates. But his comments were echoed by at least a dozen institutional investors and bank executives who spoke to Reuters.

While they remain hopeful Trump will be able to get reforms through Congress, the lack of progress combined with conflicting messages coming out of the administration make it hard to put faith in anything, they said.

Several cited comments on Monday from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who joked on a panel that bank investors should thank him for boosting share prices. Hours later, Bloomberg News published an interview with Trump, in which said he was considering breaking up the country's biggest banks – an idea that is an anathema to shareholders of lenders like JPMorgan, Bank of America Corp (BAC.N: Quote) or Citigroup Inc (C.N: Quote).

However, few people at the event in the Beverly Hilton Hotel appeared to take the comment seriously.   Continued...

Attendees watch conference speakers on television screens outside during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., May 2, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson