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Recession or Recovery?

Plus500 | Monday 08 August 2022

The state of the U.S. economy has been a source of significant controversy in recent times among economists and average citizens alike. With a raft of economic indicators seemingly presenting a contradictory picture of where the American marketplace currently stands, investors may be holding their breaths to see how trading on Wall Street will develop this week. 


Where Are We?

Key American Indices have faced an uphill battle so far this year to maintain share values. The toxic combination of record inflation, global geopolitical instability, and an increasingly hawkish Federal Open Market Committee pushed the markets into what many analysts have termed a ‘risk-averse mood’. 

With U.S. consumers facing the most rapid price increases seen since the early 1980’s, Fed Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has embarked upon a quick tightening course. The Federal Open Market Committee’s most recent summit concluded on July 27th with the decision to raise interest rates by 0.75% for the second time in a row. Market experts have been ever more openly expressing the concern that such a sharp shift to the more conservative end of the monetary policy spectrum could not only bring the U.S. economy’s post-pandemic recovery to a screeching halt, but even push it into recession. 

Analyses of where the world’s largest economy stands at the moment differ. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the United States has dropped for the past two quarters; according to traditional definitions, this would signify a recession. 2022’s Wall Street trading results would seem to bear this conclusion out; the S&P 500 (USA 500) has fallen by 13% since the beginning of the year, while the Nasdaq and Dow Jones Industrial Index (USA 30) have dropped 19% and 10% respectively.

Rays of Light

However, the Biden administration has thus far demurred from characterising the American economic status quo in such terms. The latest figures on job creation might prove firm backing for the president’s stance; last Friday morning, it was revealed that the unemployment rate in the United States has reached 3.5%, its lowest level in over half a century. If the United States is indeed in a recession, it would seem to be a highly atypical one.

Some even opine that these undeniably positive job numbers may have come as a surprise to President Biden himself. However, further economic data coming down the pike this week could prove more of a challenge for America’s top policymakers.

On Wednesday, July’s core Consumer Price Index (CPI) data is expected to show inflation reaching an annualised rate of 6.2%, a slight bump of 0.3% from June’s numbers. On the flip side of the coin, the Producer Price Index (PPI) is estimated to have risen by 0.3%, a decline of almost three-quarters from June’s 1.1% bump.

While all these latest developments may have somewhat assuaged those who had been fearing an imminent economic downturn, the coast is not clear yet. Given that inflation is still far from the ‘ideal’ two to three percent range, those calling the shots at the Fed may be coming to the conclusion that the era of rapid interest rate hikes cannot be drawn to a close just yet. Accordingly, the U.S. economy may come in for an even harder landing in the coming months.

Where the American marketplace will head over the near term, and how much of the rest of the world will follow in its tracks, has yet to be seen. New York City traders on Friday seemed to be mulling over the latest information as well on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq (US-TECH 100) dropping 0.1% and 0.5% respectively, while the Dow rose by 0.2%. Market watchers will have to wait and see how these contradictory trends intertwine as this trading week begins. 

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