The same can be said here of economic prospects. Investors have almost entirely abandoned any concern about recession risk based on a few weeks of benign economic figures. Yet on the basis of indicators that have strong leading characteristics, a broad ensemble of evidence continues to suggest very high recession risks, and even sparse combinations of indicators provide a major basis for concern.
For example, since 1963, when the ECRI Weekly Leading Index growth rate has been below -5 and the ISM Purchasing Managers Index has been below 54, the economy has already been in recession 81% of the time, and the probability of recession within the next 13 weeks was 86%.
If in addition, the S&P 500 was below its level of 6 months earlier, the economy was already in recession 87% of the time, and the probability of recession within the next 13 weeks climbed to 93% (and then to 96% within 26 weeks). Under these conditions, once the PMI fell below 52, the probability of recession within 13 weeks climbed to 97%.
That simple set of conditions (WLI < -5, PMI < 52, SPX < 6 months earlier) has been seen in every postwar recession for which the data is available. Though we’ve seen recessions without a drop in the WLI much below -5, when a WLI below -7 has been coupled with a PMI below 52 and an S&P 500 below its level of 6 months earlier, the economy has been in recession within 13 weeks, 100% of the time. This is the combination, incidentally, that we observe today.
Source: Weekly Market Comment, John Hussman (October 31, 2011)