Markets in Europe fell on Thursday, following a sell-off in Asian and US stock exchanges on Wednesday. The market downturn was triggered by negative growth data in the UK and Germany, culminating with Chinese warnings of retaliation against US tariffs.
There are at least three signs of a global recession.
First of all, the bond markets are in crisis mode. For the first time since June 2007, investors are willing to get lower returns for holding on to US 10-year Treasuries than for two-year bonds, pricing security over yield. The same is true of the British bond market, for the first time since 2008. Over the last 50 years, this has been a sign of an upcoming recession.
Confirming the investors’ quest for security, the price of gold has reached its highest point since April, while the German 10-year Bund is in negative territory, which means investors are willing to pay for the security it offers.
Secondly, both Germany and the UK are on the cusp of recession, the threat of a disorderly Brexit looms, and political volatility is raising concerns over budgetary policy in Italy. Political coordination among major economies appears minimal.
Last but not least, the Sino-American trade war is weighing heavily on business confidence.
Deflecting responsibility for the current downturn in US markets, President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday to attack the President of the US Federal Reserve Jay Powell, calling him “clueless,” accusing him of raising interest rates “too quickly” in 2018. This view was echoed by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Wednesday, who told Fox Business Network that the US Fed should cut interest rates further “as soon as possible.”
The US economic downturn comes as the US enters “campaign mode,” with President Trump planning to make economic success a central theme of his 2020 re-election campaign. As the stocks market tumbles and the deficit is expected to grow by $1trillion in excess of the 2018 budget, this narrative is now undermined. Perhaps more significantly, there is little fiscal space for either cutting taxes or boosting expenditure as a reaction to the downturn.
President Trump announced on Tuesday that he will delay imposing tariffs on a range of mass consumer products imported from China to avoid hitting US shoppers this Christmas. These include mobile phones, laptops, video game consoles, toys, computer monitors, and certain footwear clothing. However, this is anything but a sign of de-escalation in the Sino-American trade war, as President Trump moved on Thursday to link a US trade deal with China to a humane resolution of the weeks of protests in Hong Kong. This is unlikely to make a compromise with China politically viable.