U.S. Could Enter Recession in 2023, Europe soon to follow

The global economic landscape is once again at a crossroads as HSBC Asset Management issues a stark warning: a U.S. recession is looming this year, with Europe set to follow suit in 2024. As the world grapples with complex economic interplays, the British banking giant’s midyear outlook sheds light on the red flags that economies are facing. In this article, we delve into the insights from HSBC’s report and examine the reasons behind their prognosis.

Flashing Red: Recession Warnings Amidst Discrepancies

The midyear outlook from HSBC Asset Management rings an alarm bell, highlighting the stark discrepancy between fiscal and monetary policies and the state of stock and bond markets. The report suggests that recession warnings are “flashing red” for several economies, and despite certain pockets of resilience, the overall risk landscape is tilting towards a high recession probability.

Joseph Little, the global chief strategist at HSBC Asset Management, emphasizes the precarious nature of the economy. He points out that while some segments have maintained their resilience, the balance of risks is increasingly leaning towards an imminent recession. Notably, the U.S. is on the precipice of a downturn, with Europe following suit in 2024.

Unveiling the Economic Forecast: U.S. Recession and European Contraction

According to HSBC Asset Management’s analysis, the United States is projected to enter a recession in the fourth quarter of this year. This ominous forecast is coupled with the anticipation of a year marked by contraction, with Europe subsequently succumbing to a recession in 2024. Little notes that while the macro trajectory is somewhat aligned between the U.S. and Europe, the former is ahead in this economic downslide.

Already, signs of this impending economic shift are visible. Little points out that the U.S. is already grappling with a mild profit recession, and the ominous shadow of corporate defaults is gradually creeping in.

Inflation Moderation and Central Banks’ Role

Amidst these concerns, there is a glimmer of hope in the form of inflation moderation. HSBC Asset Management anticipates that high inflation will moderate relatively quickly, opening up an opportunity for policymakers to intervene through interest rate cuts. Contrary to the hawkish stance adopted by central bankers, the report predicts that the U.S. Federal Reserve will likely cut interest rates before the close of 2023. The European Central Bank and the Bank of England are expected to follow suit in the subsequent year.

However, Little acknowledges a crucial caveat: central banks’ ability to cut rates hinges on inflation remaining within target ranges. If inflation persists well above the target, the prospect of rate cuts diminishes. Thus, it becomes imperative that the impending recession does not strike too early and lead to disinflation.

Comparisons to the Past: The Early 1990s Recession Scenario

HSBC Asset Management draws parallels between the impending recession and the early 1990s economic downturn. The envisioned scenario paints a picture of a 1-2% drawdown in GDP, mirroring the economic landscape of the early 1990s. While unsettling, this comparison provides a framework for understanding the potential impact on economies.

The report notes that this recession might not entirely purge inflation pressures from the system. As a result, developed economies could find themselves grappling with a new normal of somewhat higher inflation and interest rates over the long term.

Markets on Edge: Navigating the Choppy Outlook

HSBC Asset Management’s report predicts a difficult and choppy outlook for markets in the wake of the impending recession. Two primary factors contribute to this volatile landscape. Firstly, the rapid tightening of financial conditions has led to a downturn in the credit cycle. Secondly, the markets seem to lack a pessimistic view of the future, and this optimism might not align with the harsh realities ahead.

Little suggests that the incoming news flow over the next six months could be particularly challenging for a market that is pricing in a “soft landing.” As a result, investors need to brace themselves for a period of market turbulence.

Strategies for Uncertain Times: Investments and Portfolios

Given the forecasted economic upheaval, HSBC Asset Management offers insights into investment strategies to navigate these uncertain times. The report advocates for interest rate exposure, particularly within the Treasury curve’s front end and midsection. Additionally, the firm sees value in European bonds, hinting at potential opportunities amidst the impending recession.

In terms of credit, the report advises selectivity, favoring higher-quality credits in investment-grade categories over speculative investment-grade credits. Caution is also recommended regarding developed market stocks, as their vulnerability to the oncoming economic challenges becomes more pronounced.

Bright Spots in Emerging Economies: China and India

Amidst the gloomy predictions for Western economies, HSBC Asset Management identifies bright spots in emerging markets. China, which is emerging from stringent COVID-19 lockdown measures, is expected to benefit from high levels of domestic household savings supporting domestic demand. The problems in China’s property sector are believed to be bottoming out, and government fiscal efforts are projected to stimulate job creation.

Furthermore, India emerges as a key macro growth story in 2023. The country’s strong recovery from the pandemic, driven by resurgent consumer spending and a robust services sector, positions it favorably on the global economic stage. Improved corporate and bank balance sheets, coupled with government subsidies, contribute to India’s economic resurgence.

Navigating the Economic Tides Ahead

The economic forecast presented by HSBC Asset Management underscores the complex interplay between fiscal policies, monetary actions, and market perceptions. With a U.S. recession imminent in 2023, followed by Europe in 2024, global economies are at a critical juncture. As the world navigates these turbulent waters, investors, policymakers, and individuals alike must heed the warning signs and consider strategic adjustments to weather the storm that lies ahead.

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