Jan 9, 2020

Survey: Top executives are pessimistic about the 2020 economy

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Source: Deloitte; Note: Survey reflects CFO expectations for year-over-year increases in business spending and hiring; Chart: Axios Visuals

Chief financial officers are bracing for an economic slowdown this year, according to Deloitte's quarterly survey of nearly 150 executives at top North American companies.

Why it matters: Multiple surveys showed plunging optimism among top executives last year, thanks largely to trade war uncertainty. Deloitte's survey is a signal that skittishness continues to curb companies' hiring and spending plans this year, which could further hurt economic growth.

Details: Expectations for a U.S. downturn have jumped since the beginning of 2019, with 97% of CFOs saying that a downturn (either a slowdown or a recession) has already begun or will occur by the end of 2020. Compare that to 88% who said the same about 2020 in the first quarter of last year.

  • 43% of CFOs say consumer spending will be strong in 2020, down from the 54% who said the same for 2019. Just 22% expect strong business spending (vs. 32% a year ago).
  • CFOs said "trade wars" and "uncertainty" are their two top company concerns.

Go deeper: Consumers are picking up the lagging business sector's slack

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U.S. GDP growth slows to 2.3% in 2019

Data: Bureau of Economic Analysis; Note: Shows GDP average over the full year vs. prior year; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

U.S. gross domestic product grew at a 2.1% annual rate in the final quarter of last year, the Commerce Department said on Thursday. For all of 2019, economic growth came in at 2.3% — less than the 2.9% in 2018.

Why it matters: The initial estimates from the government show that 2019 was the slowest pace of economic growth since Trump took office. The boost from the tax cuts gave way to pain from the trade war. Exports slumped last year, while uncertain business leaders held off on spending.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 31, 2020 - Economy & Business

Political dysfunction's long-term cost

The US Capitol building on Jan. 25. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

"Americans should understand that there will be a significant, long-term economic cost to our polarized politics and dysfunctional government," Washington Post economics columnist Steve Pearlstein writes on the Sunday Business cover.

The backdrop: House impeachment managers are arguing that the constitutional powers of Congress to indict a president will never function if Trump isn't found guilty of obstruction, while Trump's defense team is arguing that impeaching Trump would revoke voters' ability to judge the president for his actions.

Go deeperArrowJan 25, 2020

Manufacturing should bounce back in 2020

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Last year was one to forget for the world's manufacturers, as industry metrics declined to some of the lowest levels in years.

The state of play: Investors and industry insiders see the sector mounting a comeback in 2020 as the trade war and tariffs are expected to recede, global demand is expected to increase and companies begin to reroute their supply chains.

Go deeperArrowJan 15, 2020