For months, experts have debated whether a “soft-landing,” in which the Federal Reserve slows the economy to reduce inflation without causing a recession, is possible.
The idea is to cause some pain, but avoid a more significant downturn caused by a recession, such as tanking stocks and a stagnant economy.
But one strategist thinks that a recession isn’t such a bad outcome. In fact, stock markets could be in trouble without a recession this year.
“I actually think the biggest risk to markets is that we don’t get a recession in 2023,” JPMorgan strategist Mike Bell told Bloomberg TV Tuesday.
Without a recession, he said, worker wages will continue to increase and force the Fed to raise interest rates in the latter half of the year. That, in turn, would mean the Fed can’t be as dovish, or support lower interest rates, as the markets anticipate it will in 2024.
If the Fed fails to rein in interest rates like investors hope, it could have a more far-reaching impact, Bell said.
“Unfortunately, you’re back into a world where both bonds and stocks would go down together,” he said.
If all goes as Bell hopes, including a recession, he expects the Fed to cut rates to 2.5% by the end of 2024 compared to the current rate of 4.25% to 4.5%.
Since the start of 2022, the central bank has hiked interest rates seven times in an effort to cool rising prices. It has started working, with December’s inflation rate down to 6.5% year-over-year from June’s 40-year high of 9.1%.
Some experts say the economy has fared much better than expected, which could steer it away from the recession track.
Even though falling inflation is raising optimism that interest rate hikes are working, the economy is not out of the woods yet, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman. He said that investors may be getting ahead of themselves by treating inflation as old news, and sending stocks up sharply in January, calling it a “self-denying prophecy.”
The Fed is expected to hike interest rates by 25 basis points Wednesday.
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