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Leading business executives' optimism about the current state of the global economy has tanked, and prospects that next year will be better are falling fast too, according to Deloitte's quarterly survey of more than 100 chief financial officers.

Why it matters: One of the biggest risks to the stock market and the economy itself is the fear of a recession, much more so than a recession itself, as we've written before. Executives that think economic prospects are only going to get worse can delay big projects which will further hurt growth.

  • 24% of CFOs said altering or delaying investments is the first thing they would do to prepare for a downturn, but only 8% have done so already.
  • CFOs' expectations for capital spending, fatter profits, more hiring and higher wages within the next 12 months are all below the survey's 2-year average.
Expand chart
Data: Deloitte; Chart: Chris Canipe

The big picture: The results are similar to findings from other sentiment surveys, including the Business Roundtable's quarterly CEO survey which showed plans to rein in plans for spending and hiring.

  • As for the average consumer, confidence in the state of the economy in March saw its biggest 1-month decline in over a decade, according to the closely watched Conference Board survey. Consumers' expectations for the economy in the next 6 months fell, too.

Other findings:

  • 84% of CFOs said the U.S. economy would slowdown or enter a recession by the end of next year and cited 3 factors — the trade war, the length of business and credit cycles and slowing growth in China and Europe — as the potential causes.
  • 15% said they already see signs of a U.S. downturn within their company's operations.

Go deeper

Biden's pick to lead major banking regulator drops out

Saule Omarova, nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, at a confirmation hearing on Nov. 18. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Biden's pick to head one of the country's most powerful banking regulators is dropping out of consideration for the post, according to a statement from Biden that accepted the withdrawal.

Why it matters: Saule Omarova, nominated to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, faced a tough path to confirmation — with opposition from Republicans and moderate Democrats.

Judge temporarily blocks Biden vaccine mandate for federal contractors

Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked President Biden's vaccine mandate for federal contractors nationwide.

Why it matters: It's the latest setback in the Biden administration's rollout of COVID-19 vaccine requirements. Federal judges in two states temporarily barred the administration from enforcing mandates for millions of workers last week.

Biden threatens Putin

Photo: Kremlin Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In a video call that lasted for just over two hours on Tuesday, President Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that if Russia invades Ukraine the U.S. will impose unprecedented sanctions and provide additional weaponry to the Ukrainians, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.

Why it matters: Russia's military activity on the border with Ukraine has triggered alarms from the U.S. and its European allies of a potential large-scale Russian invasion in early 2022. Sullivan said Biden made clear to Putin that, "things we did not do in 2014, we are prepared to do now."