Fed Report Gives 50/50 Chance To New Recession In Early 2012

As the U.S. economy continues to try to climb out of the sinkhole left by the 2008 bank meltdown, looming disasters in Europe and Japan could end up plunging us back into a recession in the coming months, warns a new report from the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank.

“Japan’s March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disrupted supply chains in the U.S. automobile industry far more than expected,” writes the SF Fed. “Meanwhile, the deteriorating fiscal realities in Europe have been keeping many a trader awake at night, reliving the nightmare of the near-collapse of financial markets in the wake of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy.”

A peek at the chart above shows that while the current U.S.-based factors putting the country at risk for a recession are relatively low — and significantly below where they were in 2010 — they swell greatly when combined with the level of risk to come from the various financial crises overseas.

According to this analysis, the odds of financial recession caused by these combined factors reaches its zenith in early 2012 at just around 50%. However, the SF Fed model does give hope that, if we make it through that period without recession, the odds drop noticeably by year’s end and would hover near 30% through 2013.

From the report:

Because the international odds of recession are more imprecisely estimated, one must be careful with a strict interpretation of this result. But the message is clear. Prudence suggests that the fragile state of the U.S. economy would not easily withstand turbulence coming across the Atlantic. A European sovereign debt default may well sink the United States back into recession. However, if we navigate the storm through the second half of 2012, it appears that danger will recede rapidly in 2013.

Future Recession Risks: An Update [FRBSF.org]