Food, Fuel, Transportation, Stock Market in Trouble

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News paper headline Recession Fears

With stock markets swooning, inflation running hot, and Russia’s war in Ukraine devolving into a prolonged stalemate, Americans are understandably worried about their financial prospects and the state of the U.S. economy.

The stock market on Wednesday suffered its biggest drop in two years as large retailers acknowledged that rising prices are hurting their profits. Wall Street economists are also sounding the alarm, while a growing number of chief executives and small business owners say they expect a slump later this year.

Although some signs suggest the economy remains on solid ground, other indicators augur trouble. Here’s what experts are saying about the risk of a recession.

Why are economists worried?

The economy unexpectedly shrank in the first three months of the year as U.S. imports rose and exports fell.

More troubling is that the most punishing bout of inflation in decades is starting to affect retail businesses: Industry bellwethers Walmart and Target both reported disappointing earnings this week, saying that higher costs for food, fuel, and transportation reduced their profit margins. Both trimmed their earnings expectations for the year. In another sign consumers are pulling back, Amazon reported its first quarterly loss in seven years.

As financial markets slide, meanwhile, wealthy people are taking their money out of stocks and stockpiling cash in a move to reduce their exposure to risk. A recent Bank of America survey of investment fund managers found that the portion of investments they have in cash is the highest it’s been in the post-September 11 periods. The Wells Fargo Investment Institute expects a recession sometime in the next year and advises investors to put their funds into utilities, seen as more reliable investments.

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