JPMorgan's Dimon says economy getting stronger

Jamie Dimon, CEO and chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co., answers a question during an interview in his office in New York, in this photo taken December 22, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co JPM.N Chief Executive Jamie Dimon is upbeat on the prospects for the world's largest economy, telling investors Thursday that pessimism is overdone and the economy is actually "getting stronger."

“The underlying dynamics are pretty good, pretty broad-based and getting stronger, not weaker,” said Dimon.

The comments from the chief of the second-biggest U.S. bank come on the heels of disappointing economic data on consumer spending and manufacturing. The government said on Thursday that initial claims for jobless benefits declined by only 6,000 to 422,000, which was 7,000 higher than expected by economists.

Dimon said he is encouraged because U.S. companies have the most cash in decades and are making “good profits.” Mid-sized companies and small business are more creditworthy, he added.

“The consumer is far stronger than two or three years ago,” said Dimon, whose bank has 5,300 branches across the United States. He was speaking at a Sanford C. Bernstein investor conference.

Housing market conditions are generally at their “worst” now, Dimon said. He predicted that distress in the market will ease over the next 18 months because fewer homes are being built and because prices have fallen enough to make houses more affordable. Still, he said the bank expects prices to fall another 3 to 6 percent.

Reporting by David Henry and Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Richard Chang