CFOs think an economic downturn is coming - but they're split on its severity

Most American CFOs are in agreement: An economic downturn is looming on the horizon.

However, they’re divided on how severe that impending growth slowdown could be, and how long it may last, according to a new study conducted by Deloitte Global CFO Program Leader, which found that only 24 percent of CFOs expect better North American economic conditions in 2020 – a multi-year low.

A whopping 97 percent expect the U.S. economy to cool within the next two years.

The pessimism about the strength of the economy is a direct result of the year-long trade war between the U.S. and China, which seems unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, as well as U.S. political turmoil amid congressional gridlock.

President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet in Osaka, Japan during the G-20 summit this weekend in the midst of the prolonged trade spat, although Trump's Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross tempered expectations for a trade deal during an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Sunday.

“The most that might come is new ground rules for discussion and some sort of schedule for when detailed technical talks might resume,” he said.

About 80 percent of respondents said they think that when the economic downturn comes, it will be mild and that the economy will manage to shake off long-lasting impacts; however, they were split on whether the slowdown will be short or prolonged.

CFOs have been forecasting an economic recession for most of the year, as early as December. As recently as June, 48.1 percent of CFOs in the U.S. were betting the nation would enter a recession by the second-quarter of 2020; about 69 percent believe a recession should start by the end of next year, according to the Duke University and CFO Global Business Outlook.


“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,” John Graham, a finance professor at Duke University and director of the survey, told FOX Business at the time. “Trade wars and broad economic uncertainty are hurting the economic outlook.”