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Survey: Top executives are pessimistic about the 2020 economy

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