What the Cost of Carry Says About the Next Recession

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Since the financial crisis, households have de-levered while federal debt has marched upwards. But the net cost of the combined debt, measured as the “cost of carry,” is at a level that historically signals an oncoming recession.

The data from the St. Louis Fed for the total debt owed by households and nonprofit organizations since 1966 paints a picture that can hardly be offered as a portrait of domestic thrift.

But, when their borrowings are compared to the accumulation of debt by the U.S. government, American consumers at least seem to have been aware of the idea of limits. Since 1966 the ratio of household to federal IOUs has been as high as 1.45 to 1 as low as .67 to 1 – where the ratio is now according to the most recent data from FRED.