Two of the world's biggest economies are at risk of recession

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Posted at 8:17 AM, Nov 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-10 08:18:10-05

(CNN) -- Investors have recently put fears about the pace of global growth aside, opting for optimism on a "phase one" US-China trade deal. But muted economic data expected out of Europe this week could change the mood.

Germany may post data Thursday indicating that it's in recession. Economists surveyed by Reuters believe the world's fourth largest economy shrank 0.1% between July and September — marking two straight quarters of negative growth.

It's possible that Germany — which has been hit by the trade war, as well as falling global demand for autos — just dodged a bullet. Exports unexpectedly rebounded in September, rising 1.5% compared to the previous month. August data was also revised upward.

"With today's data, a technical recession is not yet a done deal," Carsten Brzeski, ING's chief German economist, told clients, noting that Germany could have avoided another contraction "at the very last minute."

Recession or not, the reality is that Germany's economy, the largest in Europe, looks very weak. A reminder of that could give investors a jolt.

"The fact remains that the German economy has been in de facto stagnation for more than a year," Brzeski said. "This is clearly nothing to become too cheerful about."

Not to be missed: Also on the calendar is Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell's testimony before Congress on the US economy, which takes place Wednesday and Thursday.

Expect Powell to get grilled on where the Fed goes after three straight "insurance" cuts to interest rates. But he's also likely to face questions on weak manufacturing and business investment data — and what it tells us about the strength of the world's biggest economy.

Up first: The United Kingdom will report GDP data on Monday. The country's economy shrank for the first time since 2012 in the second quarter as global growth and Brexit fears loomed large — but economists polled by Reuters think the country will narrowly avoid a recession by notching 0.4% growth between July and September.

Walmart shines a light on the US consumer

It's no secret that the strength of the American consumer has helped support the US economy. Now, here come two fresh data points: Walmart reports earnings on Thursday, and US retail sales for October hit on Friday.

Investors will look to Walmart's results to gauge the health of the retail sector heading into the holiday shopping season, per my CNN Business colleague Nathaniel Meyersohn. Walmart, America's largest retailer, is viewed as a bellwether of the consumer economy.

From Nathaniel: "Walmart's stock is trading around its all-time high, so the company will have a high bar to hit with investors. Wall Street expects Walmart to easily clear it."

The scene: Walmart has successfully defended its stores against Amazon and pressed its advantage with middle and lower-income shoppers across the country. In recent years, the company has invested heavily in lowering prices, remodeling stores and expanding online pickups and deliveries, Nathaniel points out.

Monthly retail sales, meanwhile, are expected to rise 0.2%, compared to a slight decline in September. Will this be enough to fend off the market bears?

"The state of the US consumer, in aggregate, has never been healthier," Morgan Stanley Chief US Economist Ellen Zentner's team wrote to clients Friday.

The streaming wars heat up with Disney+

Disney CEO Bob Iger has had a dominating 2019. Take it from my CNN Business colleague Frank Pallotta:

"This year alone, Disney's film studio boasted the highest-grossing year in box office history, with months to spare. His parks and resorts opened the largest expansion ever with the innovative Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Oh, and on top of all of that, he closed the company's $71 billion acquisition for most of 21st Century Fox."

But that won't mean much if Disney+, the company's upcoming streaming service, isn't a hit. The media industry is rapidly evolving, and Disney, one of the biggest media companies on the planet, needs to stay ahead of the curve and the competition — which now includes Netflix, Apple, Amazon, CNN parent AT&T and Comcast.

Disney+ launches in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands on Tuesday. Patrice Cucinello at Fitch Ratings sees the strategy as a clear play to scale up fast, pointing to the $6.99 per month price tag and vast trove of content that will be available.

In a research note Friday, Cucinello predicted strong early subscriber growth, in part because Disney can afford to offer discounts and cheap bundles. Let the streaming wars begin.

Read more: Disney CEO Bob Iger is about to take the biggest risk of his career

Up next

Monday: UK GDP

Tuesday: Disney+ launches; German economic sentiment; CBS, Overstock, Tyson Foods, SmileDirectClub and Tilray earnings

Wednesday: Jerome Powell testifies before Congress; US inflation; Canada Goose, Luckin Coffee, Cisco earnings

Thursday: Jerome Powell testifies before Congress; Germany GDP; Canopy Growth, Walmart, Weibo, NVIDIA earnings

Friday: US retail sales; J.C. Penney and earnings

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