Bank of America CEO: Economic recovery could start in 2009.
Summary: Bank of America Corp Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis said the US economy could bottom out in the second half of 2009 and start to recover early next year, as Washington policymakers make a more concerted effort to lift the country out of a deep recession. "We're at a point where you're seeing mixed signals, just small mixed signals.
NEW YORK: Bank of America Corp Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis said the US economy could bottom out in the second half of 2009 and start to recover early next year, as Washington policymakers make a more concerted effort to lift the country out of a deep recession.
"We're at a point where you're seeing mixed signals, just small mixed signals, some housing sales a little better than you'd think, or some car sales not being quite as bad as you'd think," Lewis said in an interview on CNBC television on Thursday. "I think it signals that you're getting close to the bottom."
Lewis, who turns 62 next week, spoke ahead of one of the most critical months in his eight years leading what is now the largest U.S. bank.
The Charlotte, North Carolina-based company is expected to release first-quarter results on April 20. At its annual meeting nine days later, Lewis will face angry shareholders calling for his ouster in light of the bank's sinking share price and troubled acquisition of Merrill Lynch & Co.
Lewis said it might take "several quarters" to repay the $45 billion of taxpayer money the bank took from the US government, including $20 billion to help absorb losses at Merrill.
He backed government efforts to stimulate the economy, saying they could not be done piecemeal. "People now are stepping back and realizing that some of the things we've done were done in way too much haste, and that cooler heads ought to be prevailing," he said.
Lewis added, referring to the recession: "You can't throw as many things as we're throwing at it and not break the back of this thing."
The CNBC interview did not touch on shareholder efforts to oust Lewis or the $3.6 billion of controversial bonuses awarded to Merrill employees just before the merger closed on Jan. 1.
Bank of America shares rose 64 cents to $7.69 in premarket trading. Through Wednesday, the stock had fallen 79 percent since the company announced the Merrill purchase on September 15. - Reuters
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|Publication:||The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)|
|Date:||Apr 3, 2009|
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