Discussion Paper

What Do Financial Conditions Tell Us about Risks to GDP Growth?


Abstract: The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has been sharp. Real U.S. GDP growth in the first quarter of 2020 (advance estimate) was -4.8 percent at an annual rate, the worst since the global financial crisis in 2008. Most forecasters predict much weaker growth in the second quarter, ranging widely from an annual rate of -15 percent to -50 percent as the economy pauses to allow for social distancing. Although growth is expected to begin its rebound in the third quarter absent a second wave of the pandemic, the speed of the recovery is highly uncertain. In this post, we estimate the risks around the modal forecast of GDP growth as a function of financial conditions. Tighter financial conditions led to a widening in the left tail of the distribution of 2020 growth before weekly economic indicators showed any deterioration. The Federal Reserve and the U.S. Department of the Treasury took aggressive actions to reduce financial stresses and support credit flows—moves aimed at stemming long-lasting impacts from steep economic losses. While GDP growth will depend primarily on the speed with which many activities can be resumed safely, the improved financial conditions in April have reduced the likelihood that financial conditions and real growth will jointly deteriorate in the next few quarters.

Keywords: COVID-19; multimodality; financial conditions; growth-at-risk;

JEL Classification: G17; G32;

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Bibliographic Information

Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Part of Series: Liberty Street Economics

Publication Date: 2020-05-21

Number: 20200521