Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein: Economy looks ‘awfully good’ and should keep growing

Finance news

The economy is in good shape now and appears to have some staying power, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein told CNBC on Wednesday.

Despite worries that the 9-year-old bull market in stocks is coming to an end, the banking chief said there are lots of reasons for optimism.

“If you divorce yourself from a general feeling of anxiety and just look at the facts and the numbers and what you can measure, you can say things look awfully good, and it feels like awfully good in a way that there could be a bit of a runway here for things to remain pretty good,” Blankfein said from Chicago in an interview on “Squawk Box.”

He noted that inflation remains low, causing interest rates and commodity prices to be lower than they normally would be at this stage of a prolonged economic recovery.

That’s creating opportunities for Goldman as well as markets and the economy.

“I think we’ll go forward here with a playbook that involves optimism with a kind of healthy state of anxiety that Goldman Sachs has been producing in its leaders for 149 years now,” Blankfein said.

As far as obstacles, he said he does not expect a full-blown trade war between the U.S. and China primarily because it would be negative for both countries.

He said he doesn’t blame President Donald Trump in his quest for a better trade arrangement between the two nations. But he said a “real aggressive, mean-spirited trade war is so bad” that both parties will do what they can to avoid it.

“We need each other on a lot of other things as well. Look at the security situation in the world with North Korea,” Blankfein said. “There are other things at stake here, maybe bigger things at stake that will provide another impetus for us getting together and working these issues out.”

Blankfein is expected to retire later this year and likely will be replaced by David Solomon, who takes over as president and chief operating officer this month.

Blankfein addressed the succession issue, anticipating that Solomon in fact will take over, even though Blankfein has yet to say precisely when he will be leaving. Solomon recently emerged from an internal search as the candidate most likely to take the top job, particularly with the announced retirement of Harvey Schwartz.

Between now and when Blankfein leaves, Solomon will have a have a chance to learn the skills he’ll need when he finally does take over.

“There’s a lot of complexity to our sales and trading business, our investing business, our activities overseas,” Blankfein said. “I think it’s good for him to be a kind of CEO-in-waiting if you will, have the benefits of being able to survey that and have a period of time where he doesn’t quite have the accountability for the consequences.”

The interview came a day after Goldman reported earnings that topped Wall Street forecasts, partially on the back of some renewed strength in trading, an area that had been a weak spot for the bank.

Blankfein said more normalized market conditions, with a return to a healthy level of volatility, provided a lift, though shares actually traded lower Tuesday.

“I wouldn’t say we’re popping champagne corks, but we can certainly see what happens when we start to work back towards a normal financial market,” he said.

WATCH: Blankfein breaks down U.S.-China relations.

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