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We must prepare now for the likelihood of a recession


Financial Times  | Mon, Jan 7, 2019

by Lawrence Summers


Lawrence H. Summers is a Harvard University economics professor and a former US Treasury secretary.

When people are fundamentally healthy, they do not yet know what will cause their death. An economic recovery is healthy if it is not clear what will cause the next recession. By this standard, the recovery from the 2008 financial crisis, although disappointingly slow, has been healthy for most of the last decade. This is now in serious doubt.

Paul Samuelson’s quip that the stock market has predicted nine of the last five recessions cautions against overreacting to recent stock market moves. But credit spreads have widened considerably, commodity prices have softened and investors have started demanding higher yields for short-term US bonds than for those with longer terms. Unlike equity markets, “yield curve inversions” have not historically tended to produce false recession predictions. The overall judgment of financial markets is that recession is significantly more likely than not in the next two years.

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