If A Recession Shows Up In 2020, Who Will Have Predicted It?

Recessions, once they are underway, happen fast — a lot faster than expansions. Who’s forecasting recessions, according to the WSJ February survey (the February Survey of Professional Forecasters has been postponed until March because of the data delays associated with the Trump government shutdown).

Figure 1: Histogram of forecasted GDP Growth Rates, for 2019 (top), for 2020 (middle) and 2021 (bottom). High, median and low predictions labeled in red. Source:WSJ February survey.

James F. Smith of Parsec Financial Management is relentlessly optimistic 2019-2020 (he even forecasts 3.5% growth for 2018 implying a 4.3% q/q SAAR growth rate for 2018Q4!).

While no one forecasts negative growth in 2019, Dianne Swonk of Grant Thornton and Stephen Gallager of Societe Generale do so for 2020 (-0.1% on y/y basis). Swonk forecasts negative growth in 2020Q1 (as does Lindsey Piegza of Stifel, Nicoulas and Co.

While forecasters are reluctant to predict negative growth, they clearly ascribe a higher likelihood of recession, with most estimates placing the recession in 2020.

Figure 2: Response to question “When do you expect the next recession to start?” WSJ February survey.

If the recession ends up starting in 2019, well then everybody polled will have missed it (myself included).

Disclosure: None.

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