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A Key Wall Street Economist Says Recession Bears Are Wrong

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"The bears have a problem."Photograph by Gustavo Caballero — Getty Images for Build-a-Bear

For an increasing number of economists, crashing oil prices and sliding financial markets are a sure sign of bad times to come.

But the bears have got it all wrong, says Deutsche Bank’s chief international economist—a recession isn’t coming.

“The problem is that the challenges in the energy sector are not spilling over to the broader economy and the macro data is not deteriorating,” Torsten Slok wrote in a Tuesday note.

Many bearish economists have overemphasized the effects of the markets and the energy sector, while underestimating other indicators such as the U.S.’s strong employment data, consumer spending, and consumer loans, Slok says.

“The reason why we are seeing no signs of a slowdown in bank lending or consumer borrowing is likely that the losses in the energy sector are not located inside the banks but instead among investors globally,” he wrote.


Slok pointed out that the U.S. economy is far more resilient than the sloping markets suggest. The Commerce Department reported strong consumer spending for January, with core retail sales increasing 0.3% from a month earlier.

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported lower-than-expected job growth for January, unemployment dipped to its lowest point since February 2008 as average hourly earnings surged from a month earlier.

“I think the bears will soon realize that the negatives in the energy sector are not big enough to offset the positive effects of lower oil prices on the rest of the economy,” Slok wrote. “The bears have a problem.”

His note comes as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Russia struck a tentative deal Monday to freeze their oil output at current levels, giving investors hope that the global oil glut might be finally be slowed.