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Under-the-radar trend suggests the US may avoid a recession during the coronavirus crisis


Economic forecaster Lakshman Achuthan is seeing an encouraging market pattern that indicates the economy may avoid a recession.

He boils it down in a chart of how commodity prices are doing.

The red line shows easy to speculate commodities, which includes oil and copper. The blue line follows hard to speculate groups such as rubber, benzene and some textiles.

Achuthan, who’s co-founder of the Economic Cycle Research Institute, contends both groups would be falling simultaneously during an economic downturn. 

However, the only drop he’s seeing is in very speculative commodities. It suggests, according to Achuthan, that the U.S. and global economy may be in better shape than Wall Street thinks.

“I really need to see these difficult to speculate in commodity prices really start to plunge. They just haven’t done that,” he told CNBC’s “Trading Nation” on Friday. “Those things that are tough to speculate in have not seen their price inflation roll over. They’re holding up. In fact, they’re above their December low.”

His explanation: The downward trend may be driven more by fear and greed than economic fundamentals.

“The presumption there is that the supply chains around the world as result of the virus are kind of just breaking down,” said Achuthan. “The markets were really concerned about supply chains being disrupted in all kinds of industries.”

There may be hints of optimism starting to materialize. On Friday, the Dow, S&P 500 and tech-heavy Nasdaq posted their best day since October 2008. It followed the worst market day since the 1987 Black Monday crash.

The economy was not in a window of vulnerability when the virus hit,” he said. “We had a bit of a grace period to take action to limit the damage of all of this. And, even today, a recession is not fully baked into the cake as dramatic as things have been.”

Regardless, Achuthan believes it’s vital to stay vigilant and watch leading economic indicators “like a hawk.” 

“It’s very sensitive right now to actions taken to stem the pandemic,” Achuthan said. “That grace period will not be there forever. But the window of vulnerability on recession has not fully opened up yet.



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