Is a Recession on the Horizon? CFOs Grow More Pessimistic

While U.S. markets are holding near all-time highs, the concerns about recession seem to be mounting. The Duke University quarterly survey of CFO Global Business Outlook gave some credence to this sentiment.

Of the 225 chief financial officers surveyed, a majority were pessimistic of the U.S. economy, despite low unemployment and a strong consumer. The survey found that 53% of the CFOs believe that the country will be in a recession by the end of the third quarter next year. This number increases to 67%, which expect to see a recession by the end of 2020.

As for the results, the U.S. optimism level dropped to 62.6, down from 65.7 in June and from 70.0 in September 2018. When asked about their optimism about the U.S. economy, 11.8% of CFOs were more optimistic, 55.2% were less optimistic and 33.0% were unchanged.

Duke University Finance Professor John Graham, who authored the report, acknowledged that the U.S. economic data is strong but pessimism is strong as well. Global uncertainty seems to be the underlying theme for this sentiment.

Graham commented to CNBC:

The extreme uncertainty, not just in the U.S. but all around the world, is weighing on companies, and when you get extreme uncertainty there is a tendency to hunker down. Trade wars are a part of that, but only a part. Germany, one of the largest economies in the world, has flat growth. China is always a bit of a mystery, but there is certainly slower growth there as well.

Will the United States be strong enough by itself to save the day?