October 13, 2011 / 9:51 PM / in 6 years

UPDATE 1-BlackRock's Fink says don't ignore Wall St protests

NEW YORK, Oct 13 (Reuters) - The chief executive of the world's largest money manager said Thursday he welcomed the anti-Wall Street protests spreading around the country, saying they would help add balance to the debate on America's future.

"I believe we should not turn our backs on these protests," said BlackRock Inc Chief Executive Laurence Fink at the Financial Times' View from the Top conference in New York.

"Maybe we will get some balance," he added, noting that it would be helpful to have both right-leaning Tea Party members and the more left-leaning Wall Street protesters contribute to the national debate on economic issues.

BlackRock is the world's largest money manager with more than $3 trillion worth of assets under management.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has sparked nationwide protests in more than 1,400 cities, according to Occupy Together, which has become an online hub for protest activity.

Protesters are upset that the billions of dollars in bank bailouts doled out during the recession allowed banks to resume earning huge profits while average Americans have had no relief from high unemployment and job insecurity.

The jobless rate has been at or above 9 percent since March and roughly 45 percent of the 14 million Americans without jobs have been unemployed for six months or more.

Earlier on Thursday, Steven Rattner, a former adviser to the U.S. treasury secretary who led efforts to overhaul the U.S. auto industry, said healthy profits for U.S. companies have not trickled down to workers or the broader economy.

Fink said having multiple voices involved in the debate is important, as the country faces serious challenges that will not soon fade away.

"The two real engines of the economy over the last 10 to 20 years were consumer (spending) and housing," he said, "and I don't think those are going to come back any time soon."

Fink said it could take two to three years before those sectors recover. While he said the Federal Reserve has not been given enough credit for stepping in to stabilize the economy, he said the country now needs clarity and leadership from lawmakers.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate defeated President Barack Obama's $447 billion job-creation package, suggesting Washington is too paralyzed to take major steps to spur hiring before the 2012 elections.

"We need to find our footing. It's so much about leadership and clarity and we just haven't found our footing as a country," Fink said.

He said the current sense of malaise infecting the country reminded him of the 1970s when the United States faced high unemployment and inflation.

"We were really pessimistic about who we were in the 70s, but we showed resiliency many years ago. We should have the same capacity," he said.

But with jobs scarce, Fink warned that overly aggressive regulation of the financial industry could eventually drive firms in the United States as well as Britain and Europe to less costly bases in Singapore and Hong Kong.

If firms find "that the cost of doing business in the UK, Europe and the U.S. rises, you're going to see movement of people and trading activity" to other countries, Fink said.

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