U.S. equities bounced Tuesday, building on Friday’s gains, but the U.S. economy is still at a high risk of falling into a recession, said Joe LaVorgna, Deutsche Bank’s chief U.S. economist.
“If you look at high-yield spreads, they’ve typically led in each of the last three downturns, and we’re at levels in the past where we’ve had recessions,” LaVorgna told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.” “If you look at market-price signals, whether it’s sensitive materials prices, whether it’s high-yield spreads, … or even the slope of the yield curve, every market is basically telling you there is a growth problem.”
The Dow Jones industrial average gained over 100 points in midday trading Tuesday, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite rose 1.3 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively.
However, recession fears — coupled with tumbling oil prices — have weighed on the stock market, sending the three major indexes down at least 7.8 percent for the year.
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Fourth-quarter U.S. GDP increased at a 0.7 percent annual rate, in line with expectations but down sharply from the 2.0 percent rate in the third quarter.
“We have nominal growth that’s under 3 percent Q4 over Q4. In that kind of world, you’re not going to grow corporate profits very much. People are focused on the labor market, which is a backward-looking indicator,” LaVorgna said. “I’m concerned that we’re going to continue to slow.”
“I’m not saying there is a recession. What I’m worried about is, when you have an economy that is growing as feebly as it is for as long in the business cycle as it’s been — and it’s only being driven by only one sector, meaning the consumer — we’re more prone or apt to get hit by some negative, exogenous shock.”
However, Jim McCaughan, CEO at Principal Global Investors, said in another “Squawk on the Street” interview Tuesday he believes U.S. recession fears are being overblown.
“Clearly, things have gotten a lot worse in the last two months, with the indebtedness levels in emerging markets, the plentiful commodities and the tensions in Europe,” he said. “I think that those problems, however, are over reflected in the U.S. equity market, and the market probably overdid the negativity last week.”
The Dow closed 313 points higher on Friday, but still concluded a tumultuous week slightly lower.
Dow Jones industrial average last weekSource: FactSet
Richard Peterson, S&P Capital IQ senior director for global markets intelligence, also offered a more positive outlook for the U.S. economy.
“The pessimists and the bears can find a multitude of statistics and variables that can augment their case, but the fact of the matter is that, if you look at M&A activity, while it’s down year over year, the patter has been very robust,” he told “Squawk on the Street.”
Peterson also mentioned Apollo Global’s acquisition of ADT as an example of strength in the mergers & acquisitions space.