Two banking leaders predicted today that interest rates will decline during the balance of the year, although they did not say how far.
Walter B. Wriston, chairman of Citicorp, said he believed rates will fall as the Federal Reserve Board gains closer control over fluctuations in the nation's money supply. And David Rockefeller, chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank, agreed with Wriston that interest rates are headed down.
The two bankers were among the top corporate executives attending the fall meeting of the Business Council.
There is a general concensus among the business leaders here that the recession has bottomed out and that, while a recovery has begun, it is likely to be very slow.
Clifton C. Garvin Jr., chairman of Exxon, said a cross-section of corporate economists believe the economy will grow by only 1 percent to 1.5 percent during 1981. Although they are not concerned about a new slump next year caused by tight money, their predictions do not take into account any damage to the economy resulting from the Iran-Iraq war and the possibility of future energy shortages or price increases.
Reginald H. Jones, chairman of the General Electric Co., said his company is more optimistic than the consensus of the Business Council economists. GE sees a growth rate of 2.5 percent for 1981. Jones said the prime interest rate is expected to drop to 12 percent by the end of 1980 from the current 13 percent to 14 percent but that the inflation rate is likely to remain high -- 10 percent to 11 percent.
Jones had hoped that inflation would be offset by a significant improvement in productivity, but with the outlook for a slow recovery those hopes are disappearing. This would leave the economy still stuck next year with a double-digit rate of inflation.
Irving S. Shapiro, chairman of the Du Pont Co., said his company appeared to have hit bottom in July and has rebounded, but at a very sluggish rate. Instead of suffering from a fever of 104 degrees, it's only 103 degrees now, he said.
He and several other business leaders said that the economic prospects are clouded by considerable uncertainty on the part of consumers and business purchasing agents. Both are looking cautiously at the economy and looking for a good reason to buy.