Sep 18, 2019

CEO confidence sinks to lowest level since 2016

President Trump delivers opening remarks at the beginning of a policy forum with CEOs. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Confidence among the nation's top CEOs saw the biggest quarter-over-quarter drop in 7 years and hit a level not seen since the 4th quarter of 2016, according to a closely-watched survey by the Business Roundtable.

Why it matters: Corporate America's level of optimism has dramatically receded from the levels when President Trump took office. Amid heightened trade war uncertainty, CEOs have downgraded expectations for hiring, capital spending and sales growth — potentially exacerbating fears that the record economic expansion could be coming to an end.

“American businesses now have their foot poised above the brake, and they're tapping the brake periodically.”
— Joshua Bolten, president and CEO of Business Roundtable, in statement

Details: The BRT's economic outlook index has declined for 6 consecutive quarters.

  • At 79.2, this quarter's reading came in above the 50-point level that would indicate the onset of a recession, but the reading "suggests some moderation in the pace of economic growth going forward," the lobbying group noted in the release.
  • 20% of CEOs surveyed expect their company's sales to decrease in the next 6 months — a notable jump from the 9% that said the same last quarter.

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America's consumers are happy but its CEOs are scared

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Business Roundtable on Wednesday announced that CEO confidence fell to the lowest level in 3 years — a doom-and-gloom indicator that contrasts the high levels of consumer optimism.

Why it matters: Top executives are feeling the pain from the trade war, prompting them to hold off on spending decisions that propel economic growth. Consumers, so far unshaken by tariffs and similar threats, could be the economy's saving grace.

Go deeperArrowSep 19, 2019

Exclusive: Walmart CEO Doug McMillon to chair Business Roundtable

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon on CNBC. Photo: Adam Jeffery/CNBC via Getty Images

Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon was named Thursday as the incoming chairman of the Business Roundtable, a CEO-only group that recently sparked a national conversation about the evolving role of corporations in society.

Why it matters: McMillon — born in Arkansas, where Walmart is headquartered, and with the company his whole career — brings a heartland face to business at a time when CEOs face rising political pressure from employees, social media and customers.

Go deeperArrowSep 19, 2019

U.S. GDP growth is returning to its neutral level

Reproduced from Bureau of Economic Analysis; Chart: Axios Visuals

U.S. economic growth is returning to around the 2% level that economists see as trend or the economy's neutral level, data shows.

By the numbers: Second quarter GDP was unrevised at 2% and estimates for the third and fourth quarters look to be around that level.

Go deeperArrowSep 27, 2019