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The Growing Threat of Global Recession

With luck, the risk of a synchronized global downturn will recede by late 2022. But for the moment, the odds of recession in Europe, the United States, and China are significant and increasing, and a collapse in one region will raise the odds of collapse in the others.

CAMBRIDGE – Is the global economy flying into a perfect storm, with Europe, China, and the United States all entering downturns at the same time later this year? The risks of a global recession trifecta are rising by the day.

A recession in Europe is almost inevitable if the war in Ukraine escalates, and Germany, which has been fiercely resisting calls to pull the plug on Russian oil and gas, finally relents. China is finding it increasingly difficult to sustain positive growth in the face of draconian COVID-19 lockdowns, which have already brought Shanghai to a screeching halt and now threaten Beijing. In fact, the Chinese economy may already be in recession. And with US consumer prices currently increasing at their fastest rate in 40 years, prospects for a soft landing for prices without a big hit to growth look increasingly remote.

Private and official economic forecasts have recently started to highlight growing regional risks, but perhaps understate the extent to which they multiply each other. Widespread lockdowns in China, for example, will wreak havoc with global supply chains in the short run, raising inflation in the US and lowering demand in Europe. Normally, these problems might be attenuated by lower commodity prices. But with no clear end in sight in Ukraine, global food and energy prices are likely to remain high in any scenario.

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