In June, economists will mark the 10th anniversary of the end of the Great Recession. But even as traumatic memories of that crisis recede, investors collectively have grown more jittery in anticipation of the next one. Market volatility has soared as relatively minor economic setbacks trigger frequent, dramatic selloffs. And over the past 12 months, at the same time that U.S. stock indexes have notched new records, mutual-fund shareholders have pulled out about $100 billion more from stock mutual funds and ETFs than they put in—a sign of mounting unease among Main Street savers.
Ask the pros and they’ll tell you that the caution underlying those jitters is justified. Indeed, 77% of economists expect a recession by the end of 2021, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, with slowing corporate earnings in the U.S. and sluggish growth abroad stacking the deck against the economy. Investors tend to forget, however, that not all recessions trigger market crashes. David Kelly, chief global strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, argues that the severe impact of the past two recessions has conditioned us to expect the worst. “We often assume when we have a bear market, it’s going to be a grizzly bear,” says Kelly. “But it might just turn out to be a koala bear.”
That said, even koalas have teeth, and nobody wants to get bitten. Here, Fortune’s writers take a look at five lesser-known economic indicators that offer reliable clues about a future slowdown, along with advice about how to react—without overreacting—to bears of any size.