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Posted in: Market News
Published:
January 30, 2020 12:31 PM UTC

Dow Futures Crushed as Dreaded Recession Signal Flashes Again

The dreaded yield curve inversion returned briefly in overnight trading. It's a classic trading signal that has preceded every recession in modern history.

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  • Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) futures fell 200 points in overnight trading Thursday.
  • At the same time, the bond market flashed the dreaded ‘recession warning’ as the yield curve briefly inverted.
  • The yield curve inversion has infamously preceded almost every recession in modern history.

Global stock markets recoiled overnight with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) shedding 200 points. As coronavirus fears trigger a deeper selloff, a reliable recession indicator just flashed red.

During the overnight session, US Treasury bond yields briefly inverted. The 10-year yield dipped below the 3-month yield for the blink of an eye. Known as a ‘yield curve inversion’ this phenomenon has preceded every major recession.

As Bloomberg’s senior editor John Authers put it:

“Classic recession indicator.”

Dow in triple-digit freefall

Dow Jones futures contracts slumped as much as 200 points overnight before settling around 0.5% lower.

Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) futures point to a weak open on Thursday. Source: Yahoo Finance

S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq Composite futures fell 0.59% and 0.54% respectively.

Yield curve inversion: recession indicator

This phenomenon isn’t just a niche trading signal. The Federal Reserve uses it to project the likelihood of recession. The Fed uses this yield curve as a “leading indictor” and tracks the spread monthly.

Based on this information, the Fed puts the probability of recession at 38% in July 2020.

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The Fed puts the probability of recession at 38% in July 2020, based on the yield curve spread. Source: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve; National Bureau of Economic Research

This is the second time this week the yield curve has briefly inverted. And parts of the yield curve were inverted for several weeks through 2019.

Is the Dow Jones in trouble?

The inverted yield curve is historically accurate at predicting a recession. But it has little to say about the timings. A recession is rarely imminent and may take months or a year to develop. The indicator has flashed a false signal once.

So will the Dow Jones fall into a deeper correction? More skeptical analysts would argue the yield curve must remain inverted for a prolonged period of time before we can confidently say a recession is imminent. Michael Lorizio of Manulife Asset Management said he’d need to see more evidence of a weak underlying economy.

“To really forecast any chance of near-term recession I think I’d need to see more fundamental support from economic indicators, not just relying on the yield curve.”

Coronavirus fears still grip the stock market

The rapid spread of China’s deadly coronavirus continues to dominate trading sentiment around the world. The outbreak has now killed 170 and infected almost 8,000, rattling global markets.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is now weighing the decision to declare an “international emergency.” Those two words could trigger a much deeper selloff as it would halt trade and tourism activity across the globe.

The WHO will meet today at 13.30 Geneva time to make a decision.

This article was edited by Samburaj Das.

Ben Brown @_ben_brown

Ben is a journalist with a decade of experience covering financial markets. Based in London, UK, his writing has appeared in The Huffington Post and he was Chief Editor at Block Explorer, the world's longest-running source of Blockchain data. Reach him at benjamin-brown.uk or on Twitter at _Ben_Brown. Email ben @ benjamin-brown.uk.

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