By Alan Murray and David Meyer
January 21, 2019

Good afternoon.

Two reports out today, tied to the beginning of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The first is the PwC CEO survey, which covers 1,378 CEOs around the world and is the most comprehensive such survey I know of. It shows that pessimism is rising among this normally optimistic group. Among the findings:

– There was a sharp rise in the number of CEOs who say the economy will decline in the next 12 months, hitting 29%, up from 5% last year. Still, 42% think the economy will improve (down from 57% last year.)

– While the rise in pessimism was found in every region of the world, it was most pronounced in North America. Trade conflict was a top reason for rising pessimism in both North America and China.

– The U.S. fell sharply as the top target for companies’ growth ambitions, going from the choice of 46% last year to just 27% this year. It still topped second-place China, which fell from 33% last year to 24% this year. This suggests trade tension is hurting growth prospects in both countries.

– The U.S. is no longer top territory for overseas investment and growth for Chinese CEOs. It dropped precipitously from the top choice of 59% of Chinese CEOs last year to just 17% this year and fell behind Australia.

– A majority of CEOs now believe AI will have a larger impact on their business than the Internet.

Also out is the annual Edelman Trust Barometer, based on a separate global survey, which offered a bit of good news: trust in all institutions — business, NGOs, government, media — rose modestly from last year. That said, it’s not entirely positive either, as only one in five of those surveyed believe the “system is working for me.”

The Edelman survey also showed a sharp rise — up 11 points to 76% — in the percentage of people calling on CEOs to take the lead in creating positive change, particularly in the areas of equal pay, prejudice and discrimination, and worker training.

I’ll be reporting from snowy Davos all week — and hopefully skiing at the week’s end. Other news below.

Alan Murray


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