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Hugh Cleland made an interesting observation about recession and the stock market. He noted that the NBER start date of the recession in 1990 coincided with the top in the S&P 500. Using this relationship, he conjectured that the market top in October 2007 may be the start date of the recession.

However, data from the past 7 US recessions reveal that this relationship was not repeated in any of the other 6 recessions and therefore, is a mere coincidence. So when did the recession actually start?

Below are ECRI’s official recession calls in the past:

Feb. 6, 1990 by Geoffrey Moore. Lead time = 6 months.

Mar. 26, 2001 by Anirvan Banerji. Lead time = 0 months.

Mar. 21, 2008 by Lakshman Achuthan. Lead time = ?

My own speculation is that ECRI’s recession call is late this time around. There was solid evidence for a recession call in January 2008. Unfortunately, ECRI was hoping that rapid rate cuts by the Fed could help avert a recession. They did not realize that this particular recession, driven by a deflating credit bubble, would increase the time needed for monetary stimulus to work itself into the economy.

Hence, until NBER announces the official recession dates for this cycle, I will assume that it began in January 2008.