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Is a recession coming? Look to history for clues

July 15, 2022, 10:02 AM UTC

Good morning.

I am repeatedly amazed by how little people consider history when prognosticating about markets and the economy. So I am pleased Fortune’s newest Quarterly Investment Guide is heavily rooted in history. Some tidbits:

  • There have been 13 bear markets since the end of World War II, and on average, the loss from top to bottom has been 32.7%. That means we may still have a way to go.
  • It’s taken an average of 12 months to go from peak to trough—more reason to think we might not have bottomed out yet.
  • It then takes an average of roughly 21 months to go from the trough back to the previous peak. So the roundtrip takes about three years.
  • Bear markets are often, but not always, followed by a recession. In the summer of 1946, the market fell 27% with no recession to follow for years. The famous Black Monday crash of 1987 also wasn’t followed by a recession.
  • Since 1945, however, there have been nine times when the inflation rate spiked above 5%. And in every case, it took a recession to bring inflation back down. It seems pretty clear from that experience the only known way to stop price spikes is to slow demand in the economy.

Bottom line: We may or may not experience a recession this year. (There is certainly no sign of it yet, as economist Mark Zandi says here.) But history suggests that if we don’t, we’re only delaying the pain. “Soft landings” are nice for policymakers to talk about…but historically, they aren’t a thing.

You can get more detail in the full report, here. It also includes 11 stocks to buy in the downturn, as well as Shawn Tully’s strategy for surviving it. (Hint: It’s not “buy the dip.”) But a warning: This content is available only to subscribers. Maybe now is the time to sign up, if you haven’t already.

Other news below.

Alan Murray

Editor’s note: Yesterday’s essay has been updated in its online version to clarify the timeline of Palmer Luckey’s Oculus sale and his firing from Facebook.


Chip boom

The chip industry’s record profits could be nearing an end, thanks to weakening consumer demand and excessive stockpiling during the supply crunch. TSMC, which reported a record 76.4% boost to Q2 profits yesterday, also said it would likely take a few quarters for inventory in the supply chain to “rebalance to a healthier level.” Fortune

Amazon private-label

Amazon is reportedly slashing the range of its own branded items as a result of weak sales, and may even pull out of that business entirely. Antitrust regulators never liked the fact that Amazon competes with its third-party sellers anyway. Wall Street Journal

Vaccine backslide

The COVID pandemic may have led to billions of COVID vaccinations, but it’s also been disastrous for the kinds of vaccinations that kids normally get, for things like tetanus, measles, and polio. According to Unicef and the World Health Organization, 25 million children missed essential routine vaccinations last year—6 million more than in 2019, before the pandemic struck. Reuters


The chief brain behind Tesla’s acclaimed self-driving program is out—and that spells trouble for Musk, by Christiaan Hetzner

As China’s economy struggles to bounce back from COVID lockdowns, Beijing warns that global stagflation could depress a full recovery, by Grady McGregor

Sri Lankan protesters deposed their president. Now the bankrupt country has no leader to negotiate a bailout with the IMF, by Eamon Barrett

A housing crash would sink these 16 housing markets—while these 23 markets would be spared, by Lance Lambert

These are the 10 best countries for expats, according to a new survey, by Christine Mui

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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