Janet Yellen to Wall Street: A recession is unlikely

Former chair of the Federal Reserve Janet Yellen told FOX Business she doesn’t think the U.S. economy is headed toward a recession after the bond market sounded an economic alarm bell.

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“I think the answer is most likely no,” Yellen said exclusively on “WSJ at Large” Wednesday. “I think the U.S. economy has enough strength to avoid that. But the odds have clearly risen and they are higher than I’m frankly comfortable with.”

The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond fell below the yield on the 2-year U.S. Treasury for the first time since the Great Recession. The Treasury yields inversion spooked investors who have grown less confident in the near-term economy versus the long-term economy.

A shift in the inverted yield curve has historically paved the way for the last nine recessions dating back to 1955. The last inversion of the yield curve occurred in December 2005, two years ahead of the Great Recession.

“So historically, it’s been a pretty good signal of recession, and I think that’s why the markets pay attention to it, but I would really urge on this occasion it may be a less good signal. And the reason for that is that there are a number of factors other than market’s expectations about the future path of interest rates that are pushing down long-term yields,” Yellen said.

Recession fears slammed stocks with the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunging more than 700 points to session lows on fears of a global economic slowdown and trade concerns. China’s jobless rate hit a record high and Germany’s second-quarter GDP contracted 0.1 percent from the previous three months.

Yellen, who served as head of the Central Bank from 2014-2018, said trade uncertainty has led to the slowdown of the global economy.

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“Uncertainty about trade is having a marked impact on business confidence. It had some direct effects that have been negative on the global economy and on the U.S.,” she said.