Fans of HBO’s hit series, Game of Thrones, know well the motto of House Stark: “Winter is Coming.” This motto warns of impending doom, whether brought on by the Starks themselves, devastating multi-year, cold weather, or something far more ominous north of the Wall.
At least since Soviet economist Nikolai Kondratieff wrote The Major Economic Cycles in 1925, recessions have been associated with winter weather. Although Kondratieff’s theories contained as much fantasy as Game of Thrones, using seasons as an analogy for the stages of a business cycle is intuitive. If spring represents recovery, and summer the peak of economic growth, then the U.S. economy may well be in autumn. All should be as wary as the subjects of Westeros (the realm of focus in Game of Thrones).
Few mainstream economists currently foresee a recession. They cite “strong” (a new-found, favorite term in Federal Open Market Committee minutes) economic statistics, a “healthy” stock market (despite gains highly concentrated in the so-called “FANG” stocks), and few warning signs among the “leading indicators.” But the same exact sentiment existed before the last recession. Most infamously, then-Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke stated in January 2008 – exactly one month after the recession technically began: “the Federal Reserve is not currently forecasting a recession.”