By Alan Murray and David Meyer
May 14, 2018

Good Monday morning.

Our annual poll of FORTUNE 500 CEOs is due out later this week. Here’s an early teaser: We asked the CEOs to tell us, in their own words, what they see as the greatest threat to their business in 2018. And their answers clearly pointed to politics and government.

Of the 60 CEOs who responded to the question, a majority cited potential government actions of one form or another as their largest threat. That group mostly fell into two camps, suggesting the CEO class is as politically polarized as the rest of the country:

  • The first camp worried that the president will spark a trade war (9), a geopolitical conflict (5) or simply said “Trump” was the greatest threat to their business (2).
  • The second camp pointed to rising federal, state or local regulation (12). An additional corporate chief said the biggest threat was a “reversal of Trump” policies, and another cited “ESG (environment, social and governance) beliefs not based on reality.”

Four more CEOs referred vaguely to “Washington policies,” “administration policies,” “interference by politicians” and “inconsistent U.S. government actions,” without making it clear which side of the great divide they stand on.

In comparison to those worried about government action, only nine CEOs cited macroeconomic concerns—the risk of recession, inflation or rising market interest rates. A few also mentioned price wars (4), skilled labor shortages (4), cyber security (2), and other threats ranging from weather conditions to infrastructure problems.

With the economic expansion about to become the second longest in history, it’s a surprise (to me, at least) that so few CEOs are focused on the risk of overheating or recession. Instead, big-company CEOs seem to have taken James Carville’s oft-repeated dictum from the 1992 election—“It’s the economy, stupid”—and turned it upside down. Today, when it comes to business, “it’s politics, stupid.”

More news below.

Alan Murray


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