In One Chart: A ‘vicious cycle?’ These triggers make for an ‘uncomfortably high’ risk of a recession, economist warns

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From the trade war to a debt crisis and everything in between, there’s clearly a lot to be worried about in terms of the health of the global economy, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

“Recession risks for next year remain uncomfortably high,” he told MarketWatch on Tuesday. “The economy is barely growing at its potential, which means unless growth picks up soon, unemployment will begin to rise.”

Once that happens, he said, consumers tighten spending, businesses slash hiring and the economy gets caught in a “self-reinforcing vicious cycle.”

Here’s a slide — the chart of the day in our daily “Need to Know” column — that Zandi used in a recent presentation to show both the possible catalysts for a recession, as well as the extent of the impact they could have:

As you can see from the chart, Zandi’s most pressing concern remains the trade war and how it’s “undermining the global economy.” The uncertainty of the tariffs, he said, is “a pall over business investment and hiring.”

What happens on that front, Zandi predicted, will determine what’s next. “If the president follows through on his threat to raise tariffs again on China in December, a recession next year is likely,” he said. “However, if the president stands down and provides a clear path to winding down the tariffs, the economy will likely avoid a recession.”

Status quo on the trade front, he added, will leave the U.S. economy vulnerable to any number of other factors that could pose problems. “And judging by global geopolitics, including our own elections, a lot could go wrong,” Zandi said.

Investors don’t seem to be too worried about the economic uncertainty lately, considering the Dow DJIA, -0.39% closed above 28,000 for the first time ever on Friday. At last check, however, stocks were off just a bit in Tuesday trade.

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