By Shawn Langlois, MarketWatch
Gary Shilling has a knack for predicting turns in the economy. The former chief economist for Merrill Lynch did it in the 1960s. Again in 1991. And then, leading up to the financial crisis in 2008, he consistently warned the housing boom would turn to bust. We all know how that one turned out.
Now, he’s making another call.
“I give a business downturn starting this year a two-thirds probability,” he wrote in a Bloomberg News op-ed . “The recessionary indicators are numerous.”
Shilling, portfolio manager and president of A. Gary Shilling & Co., pointed to factors such as the near-inversion in the Treasury yield curve, the nasty December for stocks, weaker housing activity, soft consumer spending, etc.
“Then there are the effects of the deteriorating European economies and decelerating growth in China as well as President Donald Trump’s ongoing trade war with that country,” Shilling said.
He explained that it’s possible the current economic softening is temporary, but cautioned that even if it starts to heat back up, it would trigger Fed restraint.
“Policy makers want higher rates in order to have significant room to cut in the next recession, and the current 2.25% to 2.50% range doesn’t give them much leeway,” Shilling wrote. “The Fed also dislikes investors’ zeal for riskier assets, from hedge funds to private equity and leveraged loans, to say nothing of that rankest of rank speculations, bitcoin /zigman2/quotes/31322028/realtime BTCUSD -0.05% .”
He said that if growth resumes, “a tight credit-induced recession would be postponed until 2020.”
Shilling doesn’t see any major bubbles that are immediately “begging to be pricked,” so he’s looking for the upcoming bear market to bring about more of a “normal recession-related decline” of about 18% from Friday’s closing level.
That would surely sting, but that kind of decline would still be a far cry from the 78% drop by the Nasdaq Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP -0.74% in the wake of the dot-com bubble and the 48% retreat by the S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.62% in the mid-1970s.
The Dow /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.25% , S&P and Nasdaq all finished Monday’s trading session firmly in green territory.