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Nearly half of U.S. financial chiefs see recession within a year

The Fed, 10 years after the Great Recession
  • Corporate financial leaders worry that the longest economic expansion in U.S. history could soon come to an end amid growing uncertainty and trade wars. 
  • Nearly half of chief financial officers surveyed expect a recession in the U.S. within a year, while 69% predict a downturn by the end of 2020. 
  • The results match other reports of a weakening U.S. economy, including Morgan Stanley analysts forecasting a possible recession in just nine months.  

The longest economic expansion in U.S. history could soon come to an end, according to a survey of chief financial officers released Wednesday. Their fear is that growing economic uncertainty and trade wars could finally halt the record streak of U.S. GDP growth, now barely a month shy of its 10th year.

Nearly half, or 48%, of chief financial officers in the U.S. are predicting a recession by mid-2020, according to the Duke University/CFO Global Business Outlook survey, which is conducted quarterly. And more than two-thirds, 69%, are predicting a downturn by the end of next year.

"It looks likely that an economic recession is on the horizon for 2020," John Graham, finance professor at Duke University, said in a video statement.

It's the third consecutive quarter that CFOs predicted a 2020 slowdown in the survey, matching other reports of a weakening U.S. economy. Morgan Stanley analysts predict a recession is possible in just nine months.

The Federal Reserve said last week it's open to cutting interest rates, which it typically does to stimulate the economy during a slowdown, after President Donald Trump threatened tariffs on Mexico that he has since called off. The Fed had raised its benchmark rate four times last year.

No engine for the global economy

Worries of an economic slowdown extend globally. The report, which surveyed more than 500 CFOs, including 250 in North America, notably found that CFOs in other parts of the world were more likely than those in the U.S. to predict a downturn in their countries within a year.

Eighty-five percent of African CFOs believe their countries will be in recession by mid-2020. Sixty-three percent of European CFOs, 57% of Asian CFOs and 52% of Latin American CFOs reported the same.

"For the first time in a decade," Graham said, "no region of the world appears to be on solid enough economic footing to be the engine that pulls the global economy upward."

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