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Don’t worry about a deep recession. There are ‘pretty good’ odds of a ‘soft landing,’ PIMCO exec says

June 8, 2022, 9:30 AM UTC

A recession is coming! Or is it?

Predictions of an impending economic downturn have been consistent and abundant so far in 2022, with everyone from billionaire investors to investment banks—and even Cardi B—sounding the alarm.

But not every expert is expecting a recession.

Anthony Crescenzi, the portfolio manager at Pacific Investment Management Co. (PIMCO), said he believes the Federal Reserve will be able to ensure a “soft landing” for the U.S. economy—where inflation is reined in without causing a recession—as the central bank raises interest rates.

“It does look like the chances of a soft landing are pretty good, and the chances of a deep recession are pretty low,” he told Bloomberg on Tuesday.

Crescenzi argued that the Federal Reserve is succeeding in its goal to bring down inflation expectations, or the market’s perception of how high inflation will go in the future. He pointed to one of the central bank’s favorite forward-looking inflation gauges, called the 5-Year, 5-Year Forward Inflation Expectation Rate, as evidence for his claim. (Yes, it has two separate mentions of “5-Year.”)

The measure predicts the average annual expected inflation rate over the five-year period that begins five years from today, and so far, it’s dropped from 2.64% in April to just 2.47% on Monday. 

Crescenzi said this is evidence that inflation is responding to the Fed’s interest rate hikes, and it gives him confidence that the economy will avoid an “outright recession.” Instead, the Fed will likely provoke a “growth recession” in order to combat inflation.

Crescenzi went on to argue that bringing inflation down further will be a challenge, but rising gas prices should help to cool consumer demand, reducing inflationary pressures in the economy.

He noted that trouble in the housing market could prove to be a hangup, but overall, he believes the Fed will be able to find the “narrow runway” for success.

A slowing economy is not a shrinking economy

Jeffrey Roach, the chief economist at LPL Financial, agrees, telling Fortune the economy is likely to slow but not shrink—and that’s an important distinction. 

A shrinking economy would likely lead to job losses, falling wages, and hard times for consumers, while a slowing economy increases the risk for stagflation but enables unemployment rates to remain low. Thus the Fed would be able to ensure its dual mandate—to maintain price stability and maximum employment.

“Many pundits are issuing recession warnings and saying the economy is heading for a hard landing. Amid the cacophony of voices, we think the economy is slowing just like central bankers want but not shrinking,” Roach said.

Roach and Crescenzi are also far from standouts on Wall Street. Even though more than 80% of Americans believe a recession will come this year, most economists aren’t convinced. 

A May Bloomberg survey found that just 30% of economists expect a recession within the next 12 months. While that’s the most since 2020, and more than double the number from three months ago, economists are still far less fearful than most Americans.

Still, with the likes of JPMorgan Chase’s CEO Jamie Dimon arguing a “hurricane” is on the horizon for the U.S. economy, consumers and investors are battening down the hatches. That could slow the economy, but maybe not shrink it, depending on who you ask.

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