I confess to being one of the people hawking recession fears at the beginning of this year. And in fact, it seems I did the same at the beginning of last year. In both cases I was wrong; the economy seems to be barreling along just fine, thank you very much.
My error was based in the study of history, not economics. Economists insist that expansions don’t die of old age. But history suggests they do, indeed, die. And this one, about to turn ten years old, is reaching a record-setting age.
So when will we know the end is finally here? My Fortune colleagues have ferreted out five key indicators that will herald the onset. Take my predictions with a bucket of salt; but take theirs seriously. The five indicators to watch:
- The yield curve. When the interest rate on three month Treasuries is higher than that on ten year Treasuries, take heed. The yield curve inverted for five days in March; a more prolonged inversion would mean trouble.
- Auto loans. Could auto loans spark this cycle’s equivalent of the subprime crisis? Maybe. Keep a close eye on delinquency rates.
- China’s consumers. They have been the engine of this economic cycle. But the drop in iPhone sales suggests they are losing steam. That could be the beginning of the end.
- Corporate debt. Business debt now totals $66 trillion, up from $29 trillion before the financial crisis. If interest rates ever head north, that’s going to be a problem.
- Corporate profits. As wages rise, profits may fall, and that could crimp growth. Count me as skeptical, though, that a profit recession would prompt a general recession.
You can read the full Fortune story on how to predict the next recession here. News below.
Twitter’s shares soared 15.6% yesterday after a solid earnings report, closing at a nine-month high. President Trump claimed credit via a tweet, in which he also criticized the company, saying “they don’t treat me well as a Republican. Very discriminatory.” Trump later in the day met with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. AFP
The Treasury yesterday missed a deadline to hand over President Trump’s tax returns. The deadline was imposed by House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin now says his department will provide a “final decision” on the committee request by May 6. CNN
The FAA has given Alphabet the U.S.’s first authorization to use drones to deliver goods to consumers. It only covers a rural area around Blacksburg, Va., but it’s a coup nonetheless. Alphabet’s Wing Aviation unit now gets a headstart over rivals such as Amazon in establishing a for-real drone delivery business. Wall Street Journal
British Prime Minister Theresa May has green-lit the rollout of Huawei 5G equipment in the U.K., but not throughout the country’s communications networks—only in the “non-core” parts that don’t pose a particularly high spying risk. Some ministers warned against allowing in the Chinese company’s 5G equipment at all, apparently including Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson. Financial Times
Around the Water Cooler
SoftBank is putting $1 billion into the German fintech firm Wirecard. The Japanese conglomerate effectively gets a 6% stake in the deal, and will try to help Wirecard expand into Japan and South Korea. CNBC
The U.S. has forced the watering-down of a United Nations Security Council resolution on ending sexual violence in war, by removing all references to sexual and reproductive health. It did so because the Trump administration said the offending phrase implied support for abortion. China and Russia had, like the U.S., threatened to veto the resolution, but ended up abstaining. BBC
Marlboro-maker Philip Morris has set up a life insurance subsidiary called Reviti, which is starting out in the U.K. The firm will give customers discounts if they stop smoking or (for a lesser discount) switch to vaping devices such as Philip Morris’s own iQOS. CNBC
Belt and Road
China’s ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, delivers a pitch for American participation in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in a piece for Fortune. “There are countless opportunities to U.S. corporations available through BRI projects,” he writes, noting how firms such as Honeywell and General Electric are already participating in other countries’ BRI projects. Fortune