Although the U.S. government said the economy expanded at a faster-than-expected rate of 2.6 percent last quarter, there’s little doubt that activity has slowed considerably this year. Market participants should prepare themselves for an environment going forward where growth in any one quarter might be negative in the next even if the economy avoids recession.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s initial estimate of first quarter 2019 growth is a meager 0.3 percent. That kind of number will generate plenty of recession warnings. Moreover, it doesn’t take much imagination to push that estimate below zero. But would a weak first quarter number signal a recession is underway, or even close at hand?