Unexpectedly Intriguing!
December 12, 2019

The Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee (FOMC) concluded its two-day December 2019 meeting on 11 December 2019, and tried very hard to give the impression that it was done adjusting short term interest rates in the U.S. for now, holding the Federal Funds Rate in its current target range of 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 percent after having reduced it several times earlier in the year.

Combined with a generally rising spread in the U.S. Treasury yield curve, the lowered Federal Funds Rate has reduced the probability that a new economic recession will someday be determined to have started in the United States during the twelve months from December 2019 to December 2019. Through 11 December 2019, those odds now stand at 1 in 18, which rounds down to roughly a 5% probability.

U.S. Recession Probability Track Starting 2 January 2014, Ending 11 December 2019

Those odds had previously peaked at one in nine back on 9 September 2019, where if the NBER eventually NBER ever does determine that the national U.S. economy entered into recession at some future time, they will most likely identify a month between September 2019 and September 2020 as its starting date.

These probabilities come from a recession forecasting method developed back in 2006 by Jonathan Wright, which uses the level of the effective Federal Funds Rate and the spread between the yields of the 10-Year and 3-Month Constant Maturity U.S. Treasuries to estimate the probability of recession based on historical data.

With the rolling one-quarter average of the spread between the 10-Year and 3-Month U.S. Treasuries having turned positive, we will be reducing the frequency at which we will provide updates to this series to coincide with the FOMC's meeting schedule, which are held at approximately six week intervals. Should events cause the Treasury yield curve to re-invert however, with the yield on the 10-Year constant maturity U.S. Treasury falling below the yield of the 3-Month constant maturity U.S. Treasury, we will resume more frequent updates.

But you don't have to wait for us to analyze the recession odds for yourself! Just take advantage of our recession odds reckoning tool, which is really easy to use. Plug in the most recent data available, or the data that would apply for a future scenario that you would like to consider, and compare the result you get in our tool with what we've shown in the most recent chart we've presented above to get a sense of how the recession odds are changing.

As we get set to close the books on 2019, there are several hanging risks that could prompt such a change, with the potential expansion of the Fed's current QE-like effort into a full-on quantitative easing program to tame a liquidity crisis that has developed in repurchase "repo" markets over the last several months leading the list.

Previously on Political Calculations

We've been tracking the ebb and flow of heightened recession odds since June 2017 - here are all the posts in our latest recession forecasting series!


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