The world has seldom been worse-equipped to fight a recession. Yet it has never had fewer recessions to fight. That makes the next global downturn difficult to imagine but it will most likely be a traumatic and unlooked-for event, more like the sudden outbreak of a new disease than the annual onset of flu.

Recession alarms sounded loudly this northern summer thanks to an inversion of the US yield curve, which means rates on shorter-term debt are higher than those on longer-term ones. That came as the current economic expansion broke records and we experienced a global slide in measures of manufacturing sentiment.

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