Recession concerns gain steam based on MarketWatch weekly gauge

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Fears of a U.S. recession fears rose in a big way this week, in part because of how resilient the economy seems at the moment.

Welcome to the counterintuitive world of worrying about a recession. Here’s the concern in a nutshell. With the job market strong and “workmanlike” growth in consumer spending seemingly impervious to Federal Reserve interest rate hikes so far, some economists think that the Fed will have to raise rates much higher – and ultimately create the conditions for a much harder landing for the economy.

However, there remain a plethora of views about the likelihood of a recession.

Steve Blitz, chief U.S. economist at TD Lombard, sounded exasperated that some economists are less worried about a recession. In a note to clients, Blitz said that the stock market is having a “daydream” ignoring that “the recession view remains very much intact.”

The topic didn’t seem front and center for lawmakers this week. The word “recession” was only used once at Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s testimony to the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday and that was in reference to the 2008 financial crisis.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Friday said the chance of a recession has “gone down” but was still a risk because the Fed is tightening policy.

Still, the economic indicator set up precisely to give advance warning of recessions continues to be weak. The leading economic index fell 0.7% in May, the fourteenth straight monthly decline, and points to a recession later this year or in the first six months of 2024.

Commentary on recession this week

  • “Risk markets are struggling with inverted yields across a wide berth of sovereign curves as global recession concerns are back in the main thanks to a hawkish central bank policy that may have to inflict some economic pain to reign in core inflation,” said Stephen Innes, managing partner of SPI Asset Management, in a note to clients.

  • “We are definitely seeing a lot of signs of softening. But I’m not sitting here stressed about this, because the consumers entering whatever this slowdown is are in good health. The corporate client is in very good health, on their balance sheets. There’s a handful of banks that were mismanaged, but largely, banks are in very strong health. So the typical amplifiers of a recession just aren’t in place,” said Citigroup CEO Jane Foster in an interview at a Fortune Magazine event.

  • “Easing financial conditions, improving consumer sentiment and the stabilization in housing suggest that the risks of an imminent recession have eased slightly. Nonetheless, our tracking models imply that an economic contraction is highly likely later this year,” said Andrew Hunter, deputy chief economist at Capital Economics, in a note to clients.

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