Most CFOs Already Expected a Recession Soon Even Before December Meltdown

January 10, 2019, 1:49 PM UTC

Even before the December market meltdown, chief financial officers across North America had recession on their minds.

In a quarterly report released by accounting and professional services provider Deloitte Thursday, more than half of the CFOs surveyed said they expect a recession in the U.S. by 2020. At the same time, a gauge of the finance chiefs’ optimism about their own companies’ prospects fell to the lowest level in almost three years.

It’s notable is that the survey period ended before the worst of the stock rout—it was conducted from Nov. 7 to Nov. 20. At that time, the S&P 500 had fallen 10% from its highs, but those losses just about doubled in December.

“Since our survey was fielded during the two-week period ending November 20, 2018, before December’s market roller coaster, the results really speak towards CFOs’ longer-term economic growth expectations,” said Sandy Cockrell, the Deloitte Global CFO Program leader. “Despite two years of strong economic growth and previously bullish markets, these CFOs are attuned to uncertainties on the horizon, and preparing accordingly.”

Deloitte collected responses from 147 CFOs across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Most work at companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue. Of those surveyed, only about a quarter said they’re growing more optimistic—nearly half the share that expressed enthusiasm in the third quarter.