After seeing a "significant risk" of a recession only a month ago, the manager of the world's largest hedge fund has lowered his odds of an economic downturn, now that the Federal Reserve has pivoted to a more accommodating posture.
"While I still expect that there will be a significant slowing of growth in the US and most other countries, I have lowered my odds of a US recession coming prior to the US presidential election to about 35 percent," Bridgewater Associate's Ray Dalio said Thursday in a blog post on LinkedIn. "Because the markets weakened and Fed officials now see that the economy and inflation are weak there has been a shift to an easier stance by the Fed. Similarly, because of weaker markets, economies, and inflation rates in other countries, other central banks have also become more inclined to ease, though they have less room to ease than the Fed."
On Jan. 22, Dalio told CNBC from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that he saw a "significant risk" of a recession before 2020. "Where we are in the later [economic] cycle and the inability of central banks to ease as much, that's the cauldron that will define 2019 and 2020," the co-CIO and co-chairman of Bridgewater said then.
But at the end of January, the Fed said it would take a "patient" approach to rates this year, appeasing investors who thought it was raising rates on autopilot and not listening to weakening financial conditions. Fed chief Jerome Powell said Wednesday the central bank could end its balance sheet unwind — which many traders believe is a de facto monetary tightening — as soon as this year. Powell said an announcement would be coming soon.
"While the Fed probably doesn't have enough firepower to offset a deep recession, the big sag that we expect is probably manageable," said Dalio, whose hedge fund manages about $160 billion. "More specifically, the Fed now has 250bps of easing (which will be more impactful than typical because of the longer durations of assets this cycle), plus the ability to turn QE back on, which we estimate is roughly equivalent to the 4% to 5% of easing typically required to get out of recessions."
The stock market has rebounded this year on the Fed's tack with the S&P 500 up 11 percent so far in 2019.
Bridgewater's flagship Pure Alpha fund returned 14.6 percent last year, topping the market and most of its peers. Over three decades, the fund has generated an average annual return of 12 percent after fees.