A “game-changer” CPI report and the subsequent move by the Fed to turn increasingly hawkish have Wells Fargo economists changing their tune for 2023: Instead of a soft landing, expect a mild recession in the middle of the year.
The mild recession, which is anticipated but not assured, would likely resemble what the US economy saw in 1990 to 1991, economist Jay Bryson wrote in a note. That contraction lasted two quarters and saw a peak-to-trough decline in real GDP of 1.4%, Bryson wrote.
“There have been 12 US recessions since the end of the Second World War,” he wrote. “On average, these downturns have lasted four quarters with a peak-to-trough contraction in real GDP of 2.7%. So, our forecasted recession would be one of the milder downturns in the post-WWII era.”
And far less severe than the two most recent recessions (2007-2009 and 2020), which were “bruising affairs,” he noted.
“Because many of the underlying fundamentals of the economy are generally sound at present (i.e. household and business balance sheets are generally in good shape and the banking system is well capitalized), we think a mild and relatively short downturn is more likely than a deep and protracted one,” he wrote.
This time around, because the downturn would likely not be deep, the labor market shouldn’t fall apart; employers would be cautious about making massive cutbacks; and income shouldn’t decline significantly, he wrote, adding that receding inflation would likely spur the Fed to start cutting rates at the end of 2023.