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Half Of CFOs Predict Recession By End Of Next Year

Newsweek logo Newsweek 12/12/2018 Benjamin Fearnow

Almost half of corporate CFOs, 49 percent, say the U.S. economy's decade-long growth streak is set to collide with worsening debt woes as the country will be hit with a recession by the end of next year. Corporate finance leaders are preparing for the recession to hit within 18 months, with 82 percent of CFOs interviewed in the latest quarterly Duke University/CFO Global Business Outlook survey expecting the U.S. to slide into a recession by 2020. 

“The end is near for the near-decade-long burst of global economic growth,” said John Graham, a finance professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and director of the survey, in a statement. “The U.S. outlook has declined; moreover, the outlook is even worse in many other parts of the world, which will lead to softer demand for U.S. goods.”

a group of people standing in front of a crowd © Getty Images Joe Raedle/Staff

The fourth quarter survey concluded December 7 and gathered responses from more than 500 CFOs, including 226 from North American corporations. 

Increasingly pessimistic CFOs say that several economic markers have only worsened since the Great Recession a decade ago and they now predict earnings growth, capital spending and R&D investment to fall. The CFOs said most growth will occur at the beginning of next year, which still gives the government time to "soften the fall," as Graham noted. 

The CFOs laid out a worst-case scenario in which annual real growth in the U.S. will only be 0.6 percent, capital spending will fall by 1.3 percent and hiring will remain flat. The CFOs said their biggest concern is a difficulty in hiring and retaining qualified employees. 

The CFOs expect sub-3 percent growth for the U.S. economy in 2019 and founding director of the Duke/CFO survey, Campbell Harvey, reiterated corporations are bracing for the looming recession. “All of the ingredients are in place: a waning expansion that began in June 2009 – almost a decade ago – heightened market volatility, the impact of growth-reducing protectionism, and the ominous flattening of the yield curve which has predicted recessions accurately over the past 50 years.”

Economists have repeatedly issued warnings in the past several years about skyrocketing global debt caused by central banks flooding national economies with cheap money. In 2008, global debt was only $177 trillion, compared to $247 trillion today. In the U.S. economy, household debt has dramatically worsened, automobile loans are far exceeding their 2008 peaks and unpaid credit card balances are just as high as the period preceding the Great Recession. 

In September, economist Peter Schiff claimed "we won't be able to call it a recession, it's going to be worse than the Great Depression...The U.S. economy is in so much worse shape than it was a decade ago." 

Moody's Analytics and a JP Morgan Chase & Company tracking model predicted an 80 percent chance the U.S. will be hit with an economic downturn within the next three years.


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