This week for Quartz members: The global economy in 2020

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Dear Quartz members—

After a dramatic 2019, the global economy begins the year… pretty OK. This week’s field guide, by Quartz reporter Gwynn Guilford, is all about whether that can last.

In her state of play, Gwynn runs through the biggest vulnerabilities in today’s economy—the imbalances that could contribute to a crisis this year. They include corporate debt in the US and emerging markets, the trade war, and an overreliance on central banks, among many others. If there is a recession this year or next, as many economists expect, it will likely involve at least one of the factors that Gwynn identifies. Don’t just read this one; bookmark it to refer back to as the market shifts throughout the year.

Gwynn focused on imbalances in the economy rather than the shocks that set off recessions in part because recession forecasting is incredibly hard. Economists aren’t particularly good at predicting recessions, so we decided to ask a team of “superforecasters” at Good Judgment Inc. who have a track record of out-predicting others on economic and geopolitical events. On average, they say there’s an 18% chance of a recession in 2020.

Politics is a bigger threat to the global economy in 2020 than usual, as I report in a piece for the guide. Populism, trade war, and protests around the world have increased uncertainty for businesses of all kinds. The question is how much all that uncertainty is actually holding the economy back.


  • Since 2010, S&P 500 companies repurchased shares equal to 22% of the index’s market capitalization.
  • Emerging-market debt has doubled since 2010, reaching $72 trillion in 2019, mainly because of corporate borrowing.
  • Measures of political uncertainty, gathered from news and economic reports going back to the 1990s, are at all-time highs.
  • Moody’s Analytics puts the chances of a recession in 2020 between 20 and 35%.


Join Quartz’s Oliver Staley and Katie Palmer at 11am ET on Thursday to discuss Oliver’s reporting on stroke over the last year. They’ll discuss why pharmaceutical companies have mostly given up on researching stroke-related drugs, why doctors don’t prescribe Aspirin to treat stroke even though it can help, and how to improve stroke treatment around the world. We’ll be taking questions and comments live on the video conference call, accessible at the usual location.

If you’d like to dial in, use the following numbers:

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For all of the numbers, the access code is 722 994 440.

Best wishes for a productive week,

Walter Frick
Membership editor, Quartz