U.S. CFOs Overwhelmingly Expect a Recession Within Two Years

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. chief financial officers expect a recession as soon as next year, adding to signs that the outlook is souring among businesses and consumers amid a trade war and volatile financial markets.

While about 49 percent of respondents see an economic downturn by the end of 2019, 82 percent expect that a recession will have begun by the end of 2020, the Duke University/CFO Global Business Outlook fourth-quarter survey showed Wednesday. The poll’s U.S. optimism index fell to 66.4, the lowest since the third quarter of 2017.

The recession concerns suggest the business community is significantly more downbeat than economists. One of the widest measures of what the latter expect, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Survey of Professional Forecasters, puts the odds that the economy will be shrinking in a year’s time at 23 percent.

Companies also pared their plans for investment and full-time hiring for the next 12 months compared with the September Duke survey, which had already shown a deterioration from June.

The results come on the heels of a report Tuesday from the National Federation of Independent Business, which showed the net share of small firms expecting the economy to improve in six months plunged in November to a two-year low. A separate survey of consumers from the University of Michigan last week showed a gauge of expectations dipped to the lowest level in a year.

The recession question in the Duke survey covered 210 responses. The poll was conducted through Dec. 7.

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