UK Accounting Glossary
Procyclical and countercyclical variables are variables that fluctuate in a way that is positively or negatively correlated with business cycle fluctuations in gross domestic product (GDP).
A trend is countercyclical if it moves in the opposite direction of the business cycle. For instance, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has determined that employment in the health care sector is countercyclical to a statistically significant extent. In the case of the healthcare sector, countercyclical employment means that the sector adds jobs faster during periods of recession than during periods of expansion. Other more specific services are more self-evidently countercyclical. Bankruptcy attorneys and business liquidation experts are two obvious examples of the type of economic activity that would be expected to demonstrate a countercyclical pattern. Defensive stocks, or stocks of companies that tend not to be cyclical, such as pharmaceuticals and utilities, are sometimes called countercyclical stocks. Though the business of a non-cyclical company is probably stable rather than countercyclical, the share price of a defensive stock can be countercyclical if enough investors shift capital from cyclical investments during recessions.
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This glossary post was last updated: 4th February 2020.