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Traphagen Recession Index

The Traphagen Recession Index (TRI) is a proprietary economic index developed by Traphagen as a tool to help predict US GDP growth rates and possible recessions. The TRI incorporates several different factors that have had a history of predicting recessionary periods months ahead of the official recession start. Some of the factors we actively monitor and are incorporated into the index include US corporate profit margins, Treasury yield spreads/trends, non-farm payroll trends, two different Leading Economic Indicators (LEI).

The TRI can range from 0 to 100 (although for the vast majority of the time should be in the 10 to 70 range). The index levels should be interpreted as ‘the percentage of a recession within the next 12 months’. Therefore, if the current index level is ‘35’, that means there is approximately a 35% chance of a US recession over the next year. The ‘average’ chance of a recession over any 1 year period is about 15%.

Traphagen developed the index for two main reasons. First, we wanted a reliable, diversified, and useful tool that would assist us in predicting recessions and economic growth rates over the intermediate term. This index is one of many tools we use to help position our client portfolios. Secondly, we wanted to give our clients an easy and accessible way to view our opinion on the US economy over time.


CURRENT TRI INDEX

61.6%



HISTORICAL CHART


CURRENT COMMENTARY


The TRI currently stands at 61.6%. This technically indicates a 61.6% chance of the US entering a recession within the next twelve months. The value of the TRI was largely realized during mid-2019, as it correctly indicated a much higher than normal chance of a recession (5 months of readings near or above 50% during early/mid 2019). This gave us the opportunity to adjust portfolios well ahead of the 2020 downturn.

At this point, the TRI is of more limited value as we are clearly in a recession and conflicting data will be filtered through the metric. Some will be slightly lagging reflecting an elevated chance of a slow-down, but some more forward-looking metrics will be improving. Overall, we expect a gradual decline in the TRI through late 2020/early 2021, until we get to a more normalized 15-25% level as we exit the current recession and enter the likely recovery.


DETAILED DASHBOARD

10 Year vs. 2 Year Treasury Note Spread
% CHANCE OF REC. BASED ON ABOVE METRIC45%
 
US Treasury Curve Shape & Recent Trend
% CHANCE OF REC. BASED ON ABOVE METRIC35%
 
Conference Board ‘Leading Economic Indicator’
% CHANCE OF REC. BASED ON ABOVE METRIC90%
 
AIER Leading Economic Indicator
% CHANCE OF REC. BASED ON ABOVE METRIC80%
 
Stock Market Action/Breadth
% CHANCE OF REC. BASED ON ABOVE METRIC90%
 
SP500 Profit Margin & Trend
% CHANCE OF REC. BASED ON ABOVE METRIC45%
 
Nonfarm Payroll (YoY%)
% CHANCE OF REC. BASED ON ABOVE METRIC90%


FAQ


Q: What is the Traphagen Recession Index (TRI)?

A: Traphagen has incorporated 6-7 different factors that have had a great history of predicting past recessionS while at the same time limiting the amount of ‘false positives’ (or predicting recessions that never happened). We then weight all these factors differently and aggregate all signals into the overall TRI reading. 

Q: When did Traphagen develop this index?

A: Traphagen began research on the index and many different factors in late 2015 and developed the first iteration of the TRI in January of 2016. Overall we expect the TRI to remain largely unchanged through time, but if certain factors lose their predictive ability or others seem more important we can add and/or subtract pieces of the index. 

Q: How does the TRI affect Traphagen’s portfolios?

A: If the TRI is very low (lower than 15) or very high (over 60 or so) we would likely take some action. If the chance of a recession is below average, and therefore very low, we would likely position the portfolio in a more aggressive manor with more stock holdings. When the TRI is high (above 50-60) we would put more defenses in the portfolio and reduce stocks and likely increase alternative/bond holdings. 

Q: How often is the index updated?

A: Traphagen updates all factors and calculates the new TRI index level once per month. 

Q: I am a writer, author, reporter, or other interested party, can I use or quote your index level in my work?

A: You may, all we ask is that you cite the index with the source and Traphagen.