- Elon Musk said at a conference Monday he believed the US is probably in a recession.
- US GDP shrunk last quarter, and two contractions in a row typically marks a recession.
- Wall Street firms are split on the prospect of whether the US will tumble into one.
Americans are feeling the weight of inflation — and the biggest financial firms are at a crossroads about whether that means a recession is coming.
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Elon Musk is more certain. At a Miami "All In" tech conference on Monday, the Tesla founder posited that the US is already in a recession that he believes could last anywhere from a year to 18 months.
"Recessions are not necessarily a bad thing," he said via video. "I've been through a few of them. And what tends to happen is if you have a boom that goes on too long, you get a misallocation of capital. It starts raining money on fools, basically."
Musk isn't an expert, but he's joining a chorus of others sounding the alarm on a pending recession — which the National Bureau of Economic Research defines as a widespread, months-long decline in the economy. After all, getting food on the table is more expensive. So is putting gas in the tank. The highest inflation in 40 years has a domino effect on the housing market as well, meaning that buying a home is getting increasingly prohibitive.
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This pressure has bled into the most widely monitored measure US economic growth — gross domestic product — which shrank in the first quarter for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
With all that going on, it's difficult for many to feel optimistic about the state of the economy.
"People are noticing the higher prices, and that in many cases, their wages aren't keeping up," Tara Sinclair, an economics professor at George Washington University, told Insider.
Several economists told Insider that current inflationary problems are a bump in the road that low and middle-income Americans are reasonably equipped to withstand, pointing to data that shows Americans' finances are actually keeping up with rising costs. There are also plenty of jobs to go around, with the labor market's recovery holding strong. And Americans are still spending, with the savings they amassed during the pandemic still helping to keep the economy afloat.
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All that extra cash is one thing Musk is blaming for the economic downturn.
"The obvious reason for inflation is the government printed a zillion amount of more money than it had," he argued. "The government can't just issue checks for an excessive revenue without there being inflation."
And some financial professionals have painted a dar picture, with multiple large firms forecasting an imminent recession. On the whole, Wall Street is divided.
On one side of the aisle is Bank of America and Deutsche Bank, which say the US is certain to plunge into recession. Opposite them are JPMorgan and UBS, who acknowledge that economic pressures will persist, but don't think a full-on recession is coming.
Here's a more detailed look at what each of the four firms are forecasting:
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