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JPMorgan Chase chief economist bets against 2020 recession

"The economy is slowing, but it is not going to go into a recession"

Anthony Chan, chief economist at JPMorgan Chase, is confidently forecasting 2% economic growth in the year ahead and shooting down fears of a looming recession.

Speaking before a packed room at Chicago Agent Magazine’s Accelerate Summit at the Chicago Merchandise Mart on Tuesday, Chan predicted the U.S. economy will grow in 2019, just not as rapidly as it did last year.

Looking at housing debt as a determining factor of overall economic health, Chan said most key indicators are promising.

Residential construction averaged -0.2% year over year, Chan said, calling the data “not good, but not bad.”

He predicted this number will drop slightly to -0.5% in 2019.

New home sales are performing well, up 3.7% month over month, and 9% on a month-over-month basis in the previous month, he pointed out.

“The bottom line is 3.7% and 9% – these are really, really good numbers,” Chan said.

Existing home sales were down 1.2%, Chan said, explaining that is less important because existing home sales historically lag new homes sales.

“When you look at the housing market, you want it to tell you something about where you’re going, not where you’ve been,” he said. “New home sales is one of those indicators, it’s one of the first to flip.”

Chan said a decline in mortgage rates will soon reflect itself in the housing market.

“When mortgage rates come down, you don’t normally see the housing market reacting right away… In fact, on average, it’s almost more like two months,” he said. “Now, with mortgage rates going back, lower by 60 basis points, it’s starting to generate excitement.”

Chan also pointed to the upward direction of the National Association of Home Builders’ sentiment index as a positive sign.

“The builders nationally now are more optimistic; [the index] has risen in the last two months,” he said. “This makes me feel comfortable that the slippage on the mortgage rates is starting to help.”

“Another indicator that makes me feel good: pending home sales,” Chan said. “It was up 4.6%. So, when I look at these numbers, I have to feel a little bit more optimistic.”

Speaking before a crowd of mostly Chicago-based Realtors, Chan said things are favorable for the Chicago market, where home prices are rising 3% year over year – strong, but below the national average of more than 4%.

There will still be plenty of opportunity in cities like Chicago, he said. It is the really hot markets like Las Vegas that will see activity cool significantly.

Chan predicted that some of these overheated housing markets that have become “super, super bubbly” will begin to simmer this year, and that is not a bad thing.

“Given that as a backdrop, it makes me feel really, really comfortable that this is not a bad time to start considering buying a house,” Chan said, adding that the Federal Reserve’s recent pivot to a less aggressive stance was a gift to prospective homeowners because it caused mortgage rates to drop by more than half a percent.

“I feel really comfortable that the economy is slowing down this year, but not going into a recession,” he said, adding that in any given year the odds of a recession are about 15%.

He noted that in July, this current stage of economic expansion will be the longest-running expansion since 1900.

“It doesn’t look, to me, like the odds of a recession in 2020 are there,” he concluded.

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