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US recession anticipated

Recession Equities Bonds Investments American Century

The US economy is likely to suffer a recession in the early part of the new year and the downturn is unlikely to be gradual.

A global fund manager has forecast the United States economy will experience a significant recession in early 2024 rather than the gradual downturn predicted by some quarters of the industry.

“We think a recession seems more likely. We think a soft landing is a longshot; importantly, the key drivers of prior soft landings for the US economy are absent today,” American Century Investments global fixed income co-chief investment officer Charles Tan said.

“Instead, American Century believes the opposite conditions exist. We believe pressures from the rapid pace of rate rises and the prior spike in inflation along with other factors may trigger a recession by spring in the US.”

To illustrate his point, Tan highlighted the historical rarity of a soft landing scenario during the Federal Reserve’s tightening cycles. He noted this occurred in just one-third of the modern tightening cycles and when the Fed adopted a more modest approach to managing the economy.

“[In contrast], the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates at a record pace of 5.25 percentage points from March 2022 through to July 2023, with inflation having spiked sharply. Headline inflation surged from 1.7 per cent in February 2021 to 9.1 per cent just 16 months later. In addition, banks tightened their lending standards for all consumer and business loans in 2023,” he said.

“All of this makes recession in the US more likely than a soft landing, which will have deep ramifications for the world’s largest economy, which will also weigh on global economic growth.”

To weather the recession, he recommended a strategic allocation to higher-quality equities, particularly in defensive sectors, such as utilities, healthcare and consumer staples, underlining the resilience of quality companies with competitive advantages.

Additionally, he anticipated long-dated bonds and high-quality corporate and securitised bonds will likely perform well.

“Regardless of the economic backdrop, people still need electricity, healthcare, food and other staples. In addition, companies with market-leading products and services may overcome adverse conditions better than their competitors,” he noted.

“As interest rates decline, bonds with longer durations may reap greater price appreciation than shorter-duration securities. High-quality bonds may provide income benefits and a potential cushion against the volatility that often accompanies economic downturns.”

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