Since corporate profits turned negative in mid-2015, Wall Street has pondered whether it's just a passing phase or a signal of something worse. History strongly suggests the latter.
Recessions have followed consecutive quarters of earnings declines 81 percent of the time, according to an analysis from JPMorgan Chase strategists, who said they combed through 115 years of records for their findings.
The news gets worse: Of the remaining 19 percent of the time, recession was only avoided through either monetary or fiscal stimulus. With the Federal Reserve holding limited easing options and a deeply dysfunctional Washington thwarting a fiscal boost, the prospects for help are not good.
The warning comes amid a stock market hovering around correction territory and a mixed economic picture. Citigroup this week warned of escalating risks for a global recession, though data Thursday on durable goods orders suggested the manufacturing sector may be shaking off a contraction phase. Fed officials in recent days have been talking down recession risks.
"Absent a pickup in consumption and further weakening in the U.S. dollar, we continue to see rising risk of earnings recession in the U.S." JPMorgan's equity strategy team said in a note to clients.