Recession Remains Likely as Credit Conditions Tighten
WASHINGTON, DC – The economy is still expected to enter a modest recession in the second half of the year, though unusual dynamics in the current economic cycle continue to complicate forecasting the exact timing, according to Fannie Mae’s Economic and Strategic Research (ESR) Group latest monthly commentary. Fundamentally, the ESR Group notes that consumer spending remains unsustainably high compared to incomes and that recession is the typical conclusion to a monetary policy tightening regimen. However, the usual channels through which monetary policy helps slow the economy may be disrupted, as evidenced by recent increases in new auto sales resulting from improving supply conditions and a more upbeat outlook from homebuilders. Still, the ESR Group believes a modest recession is the likeliest outcome – and that its timing remains the principal outstanding question – as the Fed is likely to maintain tighter policy for longer if wage-related inflationary pressures do not subside.
Existing home sales have been largely in line with the ESR Group’s recent forecasts for further gradual declines throughout the year due to affordability constraints and an extraordinarily tight inventory of existing homes for sale. This is partially a result of the so-called “lock-in effect,” in which existing homeowners are disincentivized from listing their homes for sale because their existing mortgage rate is well below current market rates. As such, housing demand has shifted further toward the new home market, bolstering builder optimism and the ESR Group’s single-family starts forecast. However, on the multifamily side, the ESR Group continues to expect a significant slowdown in starts later this year resulting from tightening credit conditions, slower rent growth, and higher vacancy rates.
“There are select data available to support several alternative views of the path of the economy, though we maintain our view that a modest recession will begin in the second half of 2023,” said Doug Duncan, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, Fannie Mae. “Housing remains exhibit number one for why we expect the recession to be modest. It continues to outperform our expectations, and we expect that its relative strength will help kickstart the economy into expanding again in 2024. Inflation has been resistant to Fed efforts to drive it down, and we view the risks to our baseline forecast as tilted toward more tightening rather than easing – although, for the moment, the Fed has adopted a wait-and-see approach.”
Visit the Economic & Strategic Research site at fanniemae.com to read the full May 2023 Economic Outlook, including the Economic Developments Commentary, Economic Forecast, Housing Forecast, and Multifamily Market Commentary. To receive e-mail updates with other housing market research from Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research Group, please click here.
Opinions, analyses, estimates, forecasts, and other views of Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research (ESR) group included in these materials should not be construed as indicating Fannie Mae’s business prospects or expected results, are based on a number of assumptions, including that the ongoing debt ceiling impasse will be resolved in a manner that avoids default, and are subject to change without notice. How this information affects Fannie Mae will depend on many factors. Although the ESR Group bases its opinions, analyses, estimates, forecasts, and other views on information it considers reliable, it does not guarantee that the information provided in these materials is accurate, current or suitable for any particular purpose. Changes in the assumptions or the information underlying these views could produce materially different results. The analyses, opinions, estimates, forecasts, and other views published by the ESR group represent the views of that group as of the date indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of Fannie Mae or its management.
About the ESR Group
Fannie Mae’s Economic and Strategic Research Group, led by Chief Economist Doug Duncan, studies current data, analyzes historical and emerging trends, and conducts surveys of consumer and mortgage lender groups to provide forecasts and analyses on the economy, housing, and mortgage markets. The ESR Group was recently awarded the prestigious 2022 Lawrence R. Klein Award for Blue Chip Forecast Accuracy based on the accuracy of its macroeconomic forecasts published over the 4-year period from 2018 to 2021.
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