Major Recession Alarm Sounds

Major Recession Alarm Sounds BY BRIAN MAHER for Daily Reckoning

Red, red, in every direction we turn today… red.

The Dow Jones shed 800 scarlet points on the day.

Percentage wise, both S&P and Nasdaq took similar whalings.

The S&P lost 86 points. And the Nasdaq… 242.

And so the market paid back all of yesterday’s trade-induced gains — with heaps of interest.

Worrying economic data drifting out of China and Germany were partly accountable.

Chinese industrial production growth has slackened to 4.8% year over year — its lowest rate since 2002.

And given China’s nearly infinite data-torturing capacities, we are confident the authentic number is lower yet.

Meantime, the economic engine of Europe has slipped into reverse. The latest German data revealed second-quarter GDP contracted 0.1%.

Combine the German and Chinese tales… and you partially explain today’s frights.

But today’s primary bugaboo is not China or Germany — or China and Germany.

Today’s primary bugaboo is rather our old friend the yield curve…

A telltale portion of the yield curve inverted this morning (details below).

An inverted yield curve is a nearly perfect fortune teller of recession.

An inverted yield curve has preceded recession on seven out of seven occasions 50 years running.

Only once did it yell wolf — in the mid-1960s.

An inverted yield curve has also foretold every major stock market calamity of the past 40 years.

Why is the inverted yield curve such a menace?

As we have reckoned prior:

The yield curve is simply the difference between short- and long-term interest rates.

Long-term rates normally run higher than short-term rates. It reflects the structure of time in a healthy market…

Longer-term bond yields should rise in anticipation of higher growth… higher inflation… higher animal spirits.

Inflation eats away at money tied up in bonds… as a moth eats away at a cardigan.

Bond investors therefore demand greater compensation to hold a [longer-term] Treasury over a [short-term] Treasury.

And the further out in the future, the greater the uncertainty. So investors demand to be compensated for taking the long view.

Compensated, that is, for laying off the sparrow at hand… in exchange for the promise of two in the distant bush.

But when short- and long-term yields begin to converge, it is a powerful indication the bond market expects lean times ahead…

When the long-term yield falls beneath the short-term yield, the yield curve is said to invert.

And in this sense time itself inverts.

Time trips all over itself, staggered and bewildered by a delirium of conflicting signals.

In the wild confusion future and past collide… run right past one another… and end up switching places.

Thus an inverted yield curve wrecks the market structure of time. It rewards pursuit of the bird at hand greater than two in the future.

That is, the short-term bondholder is compensated more than the long-term bondholder.

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