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U.S. recession fear mounts, but downturn not inevitable
Last Updated: 2022-04-20 05:21 | Xinhua
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As the U.S. Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates higher, fear of a U.S. recession is mounting, but there remains no consensus among economists and analysts, with some maintaining that the U.S. economy can avoid a downturn.

"My expectation is that we will see a U.S. economic recession by the end of this year or the beginning of next year," Desmond Lachman, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told Xinhua, adding that this will occur as the Fed shifts to a more hawkish monetary policy stance to fight inflation.

There is no recent precedent of the Federal Reserve having had to reduce inflation by as much as 4 percentage points without precipitating an economic recession, Lachman said.

One factor that makes a recession likely is that Fed tightening will occur at a time of bubble-like conditions in the U.S. stock market and housing market, Lachman said.

Consumer prices soared 8.5 percent in the 12 months through March, according to the U.S. Labor Department, and many economists believe the Fed's coming rate hikes - to avoid more inflation - will spark an economic downturn.

Economists at Deutsche Bank expressed concerns of inflation over the next two years, and a recent Bloomberg survey of economists tagged the odds of recession at 27.5 percent - up over 7 percentage points from just a month earlier. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said the odds of recession were about 35 percent over the next two years.

Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has in recent months warned of an impending recession, with the odds of a hard landing in the next two years "better than half, and quite possibly two-thirds or more," according to a recent Bloomberg interview.

But other analysts expressed optimism.

James Paulsen, chief investment strategist of The Leuthold Group, a U.S. investment research firm, told Xinhua: "Inflation is up, and there's this narrative that the Fed is woefully behind the curve and the only way they can shut it down is over-tightening and killing off the economy."

"But if you just step back from the emotion, I don't see the list of things that generally produce recession," Paulsen said.

"We've got some of the greatest job creation we've ever had going," Paulsen said.

Recession generally occurs when there are bad balance sheets, "but we don't have bad balance sheets," Paulsen said.

Household debt-to-income ratios are the best they've been in the past 25 years, Paulsen noted.

"Liquidity's never been this high" in the household sector, he said, noting there are around 18 trillion U.S. dollars in deposit assets.

Corporations made record profits in 2021 and banks are also in good shape.

"Inflation is high - there's no doubt about that - but it's special circumstances where you deal with supply shortages as a result of restricting the labor supply due to COVID," he said.

"But I don't see where that alone necessarily is a cause of recession," he said.

Tightening is occurring, no doubt, and with about a one-year lag that will certainly slow the growth of the economy, but "we tighten in every recovery. And I don't think that means we recess," he said.

"Typically, once the Fed starts to tighten, it takes several more years before we have recession," he said.

One of the Fed's main challenges is to get inflation back down to its 2 percent mandate, via rate hikes, without going too fast and furious, which could sharply boost unemployment.

"Taken at face value ... historical patterns suggest the Fed faces a hard path to a soft landing," Goldman Sachs Chief Economist Jan Hatzius wrote in a research report on Sunday, as quoted by Bloomberg Quint - a joint venture involving Bloomberg.

Indeed, out of 14 post-WWII U.S. tightening cycles, 11 were followed by a downturn within two years, Hatzius noted.

However, only eight of them can be even partially attributed to Fed tightening -- and soft or "softish" landings have been more common more recently, Hatzius said.

Hatzius projected the odds of a recession in the next 12 months were around 15 percent, as quoted by Bloomberg Quint.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF)'s baseline forecast shows a softening of U.S. economic activity, but at the moment "we don't forecast a recession," Tobias Adrian, director of the IMF's Monetary and Capital Markets Department, said Tuesday.

"Having said that, there are risks around that baseline," Adrian said at a virtual press conference during the 2022 spring meetings of the IMF and the World Bank.

"If further adverse shocks are hitting, further supply shocks or further adverse shocks to real activity, certainly we could see worse outcomes than what is forecasted in the baseline," he added.

The U.S. economy is on track to grow 3.7 percent in 2022, 0.3 percentage point lower than the January projection, before growth moderating to 2.3 percent in 2023, according to the IMF's newly released World Economic Outlook report. 

(Editor:Wang Su)

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U.S. recession fear mounts, but downturn not inevitable
Source:Xinhua | 2022-04-20 05:21
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