Recession Talk Grows Louder in US as Economic Dowturn Expected 'in Months'
© AP Photo / John MinchilloA U.S. flag waves outside the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, in New York. Stocks are drifting between small gains and losses in the early going on Wall Street Tuesday, May 3, 2022 as investors await Wednesday's decision by the Federal Reserve on interest rates. The Fed is expected to raise its benchmark rate by twice the usual amount this week as it steps up its fight against inflation, which is at a four-decade high.
© AP Photo / John Minchillo
As the Federal Reserve has ramped up efforts to contain the inflation running at 40-year highs in the US by raising interest rates, increasingly more economists have voiced the probability that the US economy will slip into a recession.
Growing concerns over rampant inflation and an aggressive use of classic monetary tools by the US central bank have fanned fears of recession across Wall Street and in Washington, reported Politico.
President Joe Biden may have insisted that “there’s nothing inevitable” about a US recession, but repeating that mantra is unlikely to make it a reality, claim analysts. Accordingly, Wall Street is increasingly building the gloomy possibility of recession into its forecasts.
A “brief yet shallow” recession could start in the last three months of the year, according to Dana Peterson, the chief economist at The Conference Board, speaking at a “Women Rule” event cited by Politico.
Michael Feroli, the chief US economist at JPMorgan Chase, believes that a downturn could start as soon as this quarter, as he pointed to consumer beginning to slow.
“Things are looking like we’re losing altitude pretty quickly,” he was cited as saying.
2 July 2022, 18:53 GMT
A recession is typically defined as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. This is made official when confirmed by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The bureau defines a recession as “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and that lasts more than a few months.”
The US government confirmed last week that the economy shrank in the first three months of the year. The US Commerce Department has revised its reading on first-quarter GDP down from an initial print for a 1.5% drop, showing a 1.6% contraction. The Atlanta Fed’s economic growth tracker pointed to the increased chances of a second-quarter contraction.
Fed Chair: Recession 'a Possibility'
Chairman of the Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States, Jerome Powell, weighed in on the current economic volatility on June 29. Speaking at a European Central Bank forum held in Portugal, he said that one way to fight inflation was to slow growth while keeping it positive.
"Is there a risk that would go too far? Certainly, there's a risk. I wouldn't agree that it's the biggest risk to the economy. The bigger mistake to make ... would be to fail to restore price stability," Powell said
Earlier, addressing the Senate Banking Committee a week after the Fed ordered the largest interest rate increase since 1994 in response to a four-decade inflation high of 8.6% in May, Powell said:
"We need to get inflation back down to 2%. We're using our tools to do that.”
The Fed Chair acknowledged that the current data pointed to the risk of an economic slowdown.
"It's certainly a possibility. It's not our intended outcome at all but it's certainly a possibility. We're not trying to provoke — and don't think that we will need to provoke — a recession… But we do think it's absolutely essential that we restore price stability, really for the benefit of the labor market as much as anything else."
After the Fed maintained interest rates near zero for the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, now it has implemented aggressive monetary tools historically used to lower inflated consumer prices.
The Fed raised interest rates since March, bringing them to a high of 1.75% - the largest since 1994. The central bank has said it will continue with its hikes till current inflation of more than 8% returns to its target of 2% per annum. However, the policy has failed to make a dent in inflation.
Furthermore, coupled with price spikes, the moves sent the benchmark S&P 500 stock index plummeting to its worst performance in the first half of the year since 1970.
President Joe Biden has publicly backed Powell’s efforts. In a sit-down interview with the Associated Press, Biden reiterated that the US was “in a stronger position than any nation in the world to overcome this inflation,” and also said a US recession is “not inevitable.”
However, troubles driven by the coronavirus pandemic recovery, such as soaring inflation as far back as in November 2021, were exacerbated in 2022. Amid growing oil, gas and fuel prices, the economic woes were further worsened by the self-inflicted aftershock of anti-Russia sanctions, implemented over Moscow’s special military operation in Ukraine.
24 June 2022, 20:23 GMT
Amid this foreboding, Bien’s administration is bracing for recession, despite some Democrats still clinging to optimistic forecasts.
“A recession would be really problematic for the American people. Boy, are we ever a long way from a recession though,” Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) said in an interview.
However, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., warned that the Fed’s increase in borrowing costs could trigger layoffs.
"You know what's worse than high inflation and low unemployment? It's high inflation and a recession with millions of people out of work. I hope you'll reconsider that, before you drive this economy off a cliff," Warren stated.
A White House official was cited as acknowledging that the economy faces a range of global risks, but touted the country’s economic strengths. The strong labor market, consumer spending and business investment all “position us well – better than almost any other country – to build on our strong economic foundation and transition to steady, stable growth, with lower inflation,” the source was cited by Politico as saying.