Survey: Most CFOs Bracing for Recession in 2020

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Jun 12, 2019

Nearly half of chief financial officers believe that there will be a recession by the middle of 2020, and a large majority, 69 percent, believe it will happen by the end of 2020. The survey, which comes from Duke University, drew opinions from finance leaders at 238 U.S. firms. These CFOs were  actually quite optimistic compared to finance chiefs in other countries. The survey also found that 85 percent of African CFOs believe that a recession will have begun in their countries no later than second quarter of 2020, as do the majority in Europe (63 percent), Asia (57 percent), and Latin America (52 percent). 

John Graham, a finance professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and director of the survey, noted that this is the third straight quarter (the university conducts this survey every fiscal quarter)  in which CFOs have predicted a 2020 recession. He also found it telling that, for the first time in a decade, there is no region in the world that appears to be on solid economic footing. 

Factors in these dire predictions include ongoing trade disruption from the United States as well as broad economic uncertainty. This plays into another poll result, which showed overall that those pessimistic about the U.S. economy in the future outnumber those who are optimistic by a 2-1 margin. This is a marked difference from the 2018 figures, which showed people generally confident in the economy's future. 

“The reduced optimism about the overall U.S. economy likely reflects continued uncertainty about trade policy and weaker global economic growth,” said Graham. “The overall Optimism Index is 65.7 this quarter, on a scale from 0 to 100, down from 70 in September 2018.” 

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