Standard Chartered CEO says a recession next year 'looks less likely today'

Key Points
  • Despite signs that a recession may be looming, Standard Chartered CEO Bill Winters says it doesn't look like a downturn is on the horizon.
  • "This idea that we are in a straight line to a recession sometime next year looks less likely today," he said, speaking to CNBC at the Credit Suisse Asian Investment Conference in Hong Kong.
  • Winters pointed to three factors to support his prediction, joining former Fed Chair Janet Yellen in downplaying recession fears.
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There may be ominous signs of a recession — such as a yield curve that has inverted, and worrying economic data coming out of Europe — but Standard Chartered CEO Bill Winters says it doesn't look like a downturn is on the horizon.

"On balance, things feel okay right now. We know that the global economy has slowed, but there are signs of a bottoming out beginning to pick up," he told CNBC at the Credit Suisse Asian Investment Conference in Hong Kong on Tuesday. "There are signs from China, there are signs from Europe — I would say more tender in Europe. This idea that we are in a straight line to a recession sometime next year looks less likely today."

Winters pointed to three factors to support his prediction.

"Part of it is the Fed, part of it is the sense that there's progress on the trade discussions between the U.S. and China," he told CNBC's Nancy Hungerford and Emily Tan.

"Part of it is we are in the cycle — we've probably gone through the deleveraging period in China ... in some of the rest of emerging Asia. Not completely, but there's the sense that we're coming back up," he continued, referring to China's efforts to reduce debt levels.

But there have been signs that the world's second-largest economy has more or less paused its deleveraging measures and instead, is putting in place more easing measures in a bid to prop up its slowing economy.

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Meanwhile, developments last week kept markets on edge. One of the most reliable recession indicators in the market — the yield curve — inverted on Friday. It occurs when long-term debts have a lower yield as compared with short-term debt.

A raft of weak economic data also stoked recession fears: Germany's manufacturing activity dropped to its lowest level in more than six years in March, according to data from IHS Markit; while manufacturing in the eurozone also fell to its lowest level since April 2013.

However, the U.S. central bank surprised investors by adopting a sharp dovish stance last Wednesday, projecting no further interest rate hikes this year, and justifying its more temperate outlook by cutting 2019 growth outlook for the world's largest economy.

Winters joined former Fed Chair Janet Yellen in downplaying recession fears. Yellen was asked at the same conference on Monday about whether the yield curve inversion was a signal for a looming downturn.

"My own answer is no, I don't see it as a signal of recession," she said.

— CNBC's Kelly Olsen contributed to this report.

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