Markets News & Opinions

Dow Futures Plunge as 9 Recession Alarms Scream Red

Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) futures indicate a weak open on Wall Street on Tuesday. After the Labor Day weekend, which saw a fresh round of tariffs imposed on China, traders are returning to a bleak stock market and a host of recession warnings.

Fears of a downturn, triggered by the prolonged US-China trade war, saw the Dow collapse 2 percent in August. The trend looks set to continue through September as nine recession warnings flash red. According to CNBC, everything from the bond market to corporate earnings to manufacturing points to a downturn.

Dow futures careen 217 points lower

Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) futures shed more than 200 points in early trading Tuesday. At 6.58 am ET, Dow futures were 217 points lower, pointing to a weak stock market open.

Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) futures tumbled in early trading Tuesday as a flurry of recession indicators flash red. Source: Yahoo Finance

S&P 500 futures mirrored the fall while Nasdaq Composite futures fell 0.72 percent. 

The 9 signs of recession

As extensively reported, whispers of the ‘r’ word have been circulating for several months on Wall Street, forcing the Dow and S&P 500 down. But we’re fast reaching fever pitch. CNBC highlights at least nine recession indicators to watch right now.

  1. Inverted yield curve – the loudest recession indicator. It turned red in August when the 10-year Treasury bond yields flipped lower than 2-year yields.
  2. Gold up 20% since May – Gold is the classic safe haven and early indicator of investor nerves.
  3. Poor corporate earnings – As reported, corporate earnings plunged in 2019 with stock valuations held above water on stock buybacks.
  4. Slowing GDP growth – US GDP slowed to 2 percent in the second quarter, down from 3 percent the previous quarter.
  5. Copper price slump – Copper has plunged 13 percent since January. The metal is often a bellwether for economic activity. A decline in price signals a decline in demand for construction.
  6. Business spending slump – Companies are increasingly reluctant to invest with private capital allocations down 5.5% in the second quarter.
  7. Weak shipping activity – The Cass Freight index fell almost 6% in July, signaling a slump in US shipping.
  8. Global sentiment turns gloomy – The Economic Policy Uncertainty Index, which tracks negative sentiment about global economy policy is at an all-time high.
  9. Slow manufacturing growth – US manufacturing decelerated to the slowest pace in ten years.

Dow under pressure? Or buying opportunity?

With so much talk of recession and negative sentiment, contrarians will likely see this dip in the Dow Jones as a buying opportunity. Fundstrat’s Thomas Lee believes the market weakness will force the Federal Reserve’s hand into cutting rates in September. A move he sees as bullish for stocks.

“We see a falling 10-yr [bond yield] and weakening USD and higher odds of a September cut as VERY BULLISH—hence, we strongly urge investors to take advantage of this weakness.”

This article was updated at 6.59 am ET to reflect updated prices.

Last modified: September 23, 2020 12:59 PM

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 Twitter at _Ben_Brown. Email ben @