Worried about a US recession? Here’s what the ASX 200 banks are forecasting

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The top economists at the S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) banks have delivered their outlooks on a recession in the United States.

While the US may be far from our shores, if the world’s top economy dips into a recession, the ripple effects will almost certainly be felt here.

So, what are the ASX 200 banks forecasting?

US inflation and rates soaring

The May inflation rates out of the US, released last week, surprised most economists to the upside. While inflation had dipped slightly in April from the March figures, it headed higher again in May, reaching 8.6%. That’s the fastest pace of consumer price increases in 40 years.

The higher-than-expected inflation figures prompted the US Federal Reserve to hike the official interest rate by 0.75%, the biggest single rate hike since 1994.

With rates on the rise and inflation running hot, is the US heading for a recession?

According to the top economists at the ASX 200 banks, quite likely. But investors need not necessarily be overly alarmed.

A technical recession occurs when a country’s GDP declines for two consecutive quarters.

While chief economist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA) Stephen Halmarick believes a recession in the US is likely, he doesn’t expect the world’s biggest economy to implode.

According to Halmarick (courtesy of The Australian Financial Review):

It’s more than likely to meet the technical definition of a recession, but that’s not the same as a collapse in the economy. People are expecting to go from boom-like conditions to a collapse, and there’s a pathway in between…

It’s not negative growth for the year, but there may be two quarters of negative growth… We’re expecting a slowdown because the Fed will take monetary policy into restrictive territory.

ASX 200 banks address US recession impacts on Australia

As far as the impact of a US recession spreading to Australia, Westpac Banking Corp. (ASX: WBC) chief economist Bill Evans said financial markets, the Aussie dollar, and confidence could all play a role.

Should the US enter a recession, it would likely result in a stronger Aussie dollar.

Although falling confidence “would certainly lower expectations for economic activity,” he said, impacting Australia’s own growth outlook.

Evans added:

If business confidence gets hit hard, then people would lower their expectations for business investment, and if consumer confidence gets hit hard, then it’s all about consumer spending and house prices.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd (ASX: ANZ) chief economist Richard Yetsenga highlighted that it’s really the severity of any potential US recession investors should keep an eye on.

According to Yetsenga (quoted by the AFR):

The US economy is operating well beyond capacity and two quarters of modestly negative GDP need not be all that disruptive. A deep recession that is associated with large-scale unemployment, business bankruptcies and credit rationing would be more concerning and would directly impact Australia.

However, the ASX 200 bank economist doesn’t believe that’s likely. “US consumers look to be in very good shape suggesting the downturn in consumption will only be moderate,” he said.

Should a US recession be on the cards, National Australia Bank Ltd (ASX: NAB) chief economist Alan Oster believes that’s most likely to happen “in mid-to-late 2023”.

“We would, however, downplay the idea that a recession is only when there are two successive quarters of negative GDP growth,” he added.

Oster said the US could face “recession-like” conditions.

The ASX 200 bank is forecasting slower GDP growth to 1.1% over the next two years while it expects US unemployment to rise from the current 3.6% to 4.8%.

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