Bears Retreat: Recession Odds Dip Below 50%

Stock market bears capitulate amid rising optimism for a U.S. soft landing, despite bond market's recession warnings.

By Athena Xu

3/28, 01:50 EDT

Key Takeaway

  • Stock market bears capitulate, slashing recession odds below 50% for the first time in two years, signaling a shift in investor sentiment.
  • Despite expectations of a soft landing, markets are positioned for "no landing" with strong growth assumptions, challenging traditional economic indicators.
  • Yen's weakness continues despite Japan's intervention threats; market dynamics suggest complex factors beyond mere speculation affecting currency stability.

The End of the Bear Market?

In a surprising turn of events, stock market bears have seemingly capitulated, signaling a shift in sentiment that could have far-reaching implications for investors and the broader economy. Recent data, including the S&P 500's record highs and a significant reduction in recession odds by asset allocators and economists, suggests a growing belief in a soft landing for the U.S. economy. This optimism, however, contrasts with the bond market's persistent recession warnings, highlighting a complex landscape that investors must navigate.

Recession Odds: A Changing Landscape

The latest edition of Absolute Strategy Research’s Asset Allocators survey, polling managers of $8 trillion, has dramatically slashed the odds of a recession in the next 12 months, aligning with Bank of America Corp.’s findings. This newfound confidence starkly contrasts with the bond market's inversion and the New York Fed's implied recession probability, suggesting a disconnect between equity optimism and bond market caution. This divergence raises questions about the true state of the economy and the potential for mispricing risk.

Misleading Economic Indicators?

The Conference Board’s leading economic indicators (LEI) and the yield curve have historically been reliable recession predictors. Yet, the current economic resilience challenges these indicators' accuracy. DE Shaw's analysis further complicates the picture, suggesting that the range of economic outcomes may be broader than current consensus believes. This discrepancy between traditional indicators and current market sentiment underscores the uncertainty and potential volatility facing investors.

Market Positioning: Optimism vs. Prudence

Asset allocators' shift towards equities over bonds and high-yield credit over investment-grade reflects a broader market optimism. However, this sentiment seems to overlook the potential for economic surprises, both positive and negative. The relative performance of emerging and developed markets, along with cyclical versus defensive stocks, indicates a market betting on continued growth. Yet, recent comments from Fed governor Christopher Waller caution against premature rate cut expectations, hinting at a more complex economic trajectory than the market currently anticipates.

The Yen's Struggle and Global Implications

Japan's battle with the yen's weakness amidst speculation of Federal Reserve rate cuts highlights the interconnectedness of global financial markets. Japanese authorities' consideration of intervention to stabilize the yen, despite low volatility, reflects broader concerns about currency stability and its impact on global trade and investment flows. The potential for sudden yen appreciation and its historical impact on financial markets underscores the delicate balance central banks must maintain in managing currency values in a globally interconnected economy.