JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon is "optimistic of the future" despite the fact that the financial crisis is "one of the most serious the world has ever seen." Dimon, who is typically pessimistic with his public remarks regarding the banking environment, offered a perspective on the global banking crisis at a presentation at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. He said that regulators, Congress and business executives need to work together on a unified front to fix the economy. "Our industry and our economy are facing serious challenges. But we have encountered difficulty," Dimon said, according to prepared remarks. "The measure of our mettle as a country -- and as a company -- is how we work together to address these problems." JPMorgan Chase, which has weathered the financial crisis better than many competitors, received $25 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program last autumn, but Dimon reiterated that the company did not need the money. "We believe then as we believe now that accepting the money was the right thing to do for the U.S. financial system," he said. "We think the government acted extremely boldly. I hesitate to think what would have happened had they not done it." Dimon believes that many smaller banks are also in good shape and should pass the government's stress tests. "I think a lot of the banks will be fine," he said. "We shouldn't blanket everybody with the same brush." He said it was unlikely JPMorgan Chase would repay the TARP money this year, but possibly could in 2010.
Despite the backlash towards banks in general for supposedly "hoarding" the TARP capital, JPMorgan is "doing its best to be good stewards of this money," he said. JPMorgan Chase extended more than $46 billion in new loans in the month of January, despite "loan demand being generally flat across the board," Dimon said. JPMorgan Chase extended more than $150 billion in the fourth quarter. Included in the $46 billion is $16 billion of consumer and small business originations in auto, mortgages, student loans, home equity lines and credit card loans; $30 billion in new and renewed commitments to mid-sized businesses and large corporations; and $12 billion through the purchase of mortgage and other asset-backed securities. JPMorgan Chase is also modifying mortgages owned and serviced by the company, Dimon said. Shares closed up 4.6% to $20.40 Wednesday.