Are we heading into a recession? Some CFOs think it could happen soon

America's CFOs are increasingly betting that the U.S. economy will enter a recession within one year, according to a survey published on Wednesday.

The Duke University and CFO Global Business Outlook study found that 48.1 percent of U.S. CFOs believe the nation will be in recession by the second-quarter of 2020; about 69 percent believe a recession will have begun by the end of next year. It’s the third consecutive quarter that CFOs have warned a recession could hit by 2020.

Plus, economic uncertainty remains strong in other parts of the world, as well, with a majority of CFOs in Europe (63 percent), Asia (57 percent) and Latin America (52 percent) forecasting an economic slowdown sometime next year.

“For the first time in a decade, no region of the world appears to be on solid enough economic footing to be the engine that pulls the global economy upward,” said John Graham, a finance professor at Duke University and director of the survey. “Trade wars and broad economic uncertainty are hurting the economic outlook.”

That’s combined with falling optimism among CFOs, Graham said. Pessimists outnumber optimists by a two-to-one margin in terms of optimism about the strength of the U.S. economy.

“This optimism index has proven historically to be a good predictor of the future,” Graham said. “So the trend isn’t good, let’s put it that way.”

Survey respondents said they were worried about several threats to the economy, with a majority of 45 percent saying difficulty hiring and retaining qualified employees was their top concern. Other fears included government policies (37 percent listed it as their concern), economic uncertainty (29 percent), data security (26 percent) and the rising cost of wages and benefits (24 percent).

“Businesses want immigration reform that allows for workers to fill some of the wage gaps right now that we’re experiencing in the U.S.,” Graham said.


The study generated responses from more than 500 CFOs, including 250 from North America, at both public and private and small and large companies.