55% of CEOs say this recession will be worse than the global financial crisis—but they’re still ready to strike M&A deals

January 11, 2023, 9:40 AM UTC
Updated January 11, 2023, 1:13 PM UTC
CEO stares out window
98% of CEOs expect a downturn this year.
Getty Images

Good morning.

CEO sentiment is growing increasingly sour. A new survey by EY of 1,200 global CEOs—taken in December and out this morning—finds 98% of them are anticipating an economic downturn, and they are split down the middle on whether that downturn will be “moderate” or “severe.” Most disturbingly, more than half—55%—indicated some agreement with the statement that “this recession will be worse than the global financial crisis in terms of how deep the downturn is and how long it lasts.”

Yet in spite of the coming downturn, CEOs are eager to make transformational acquisitions—perhaps because prices are more reasonable than they were a year ago. Of the CEOs polled, 46% said they anticipated pursuing merger and acquisitions over the course of the year. That notion is bolstered by news this week of two potential $10 billion deals: CVS’s pursuit of Oak Street Health and Microsoft’s increased investment in OpenAI.

By the way, while layoffs at companies like Salesforce, Amazon, and Goldman Sachs have gotten outsized attention, the overall layoff rate remains low. Megan Leonhardt breaks down the numbers here, showing which industries have been hit the hardest.

Other news below.

Alan Murray



The Fed's narrow focus

Fed Chair Jerome Powell says the Federal Reserve will avoid touching on political issues as it works to bring down inflation with interest rate hikes. Lowering inflation requires measures that "are not popular in the short term," making all the more prudent that the Fed "'stick to our knitting' and not wander off" into unrelated territory, Powell said. Notably, he pledged that the Fed "will not be a ‘climate policy maker.'" Wall Street Journal

Sick workers

COVID is killing fewer people than before, but it's still making people sick, likely causing hundreds of thousands more Americans to miss work every month, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. From 2017 to 2019, the U.S. averaged 964,000 illnesses a month. From 2020 through 2022, it was 55% higher at nearly 1.5 million. Washington Post

A 40% raise

Uniqlo parent and Asia's largest clothing retailer, Fast Retailing, is boosting Japan workers' wages as much as 40% to keep up with inflation that's rising at its fastest pace in decades. The company had already increased pay for part-time employees 20% in September and has raised some of its prices to offset the new costs. Other employers are likely to follow suit. Japan recorded inflation of 3.7% in November, the highest rate in nearly 41 years. Financial Times


‘Quiet hiring’ is the opposite of quiet quitting, and workers are furious about it by Jane Thier

Heiress Abigail Disney calls private jets ‘cancer’ and says she sometimes flies business class by Tristan Bove

Student loan repayment plan proposed by Biden could cut monthly bills in half, with some borrowers paying $0 by Alicia Adamczyk

America isn’t just missing workers—the U.S. labor force overall is working less. But that may not be a bad thing by Megan Leonhardt

Coinbase just announced it’s laying off 25% of its staff amid broader cuts in the crypto industry by Leo Schwartz

Shopify is canceling meetings, but does that make staff any happier or more productive? Experts are divided on the new policy by Orianna Rosa Royle

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by Claire Zillman. 

Correction, Jan. 11, 2023: A previous version of this story misstated the number of CEOs surveyed by EY.

This is the web version of CEO Daily, a newsletter of must-read insights from Fortune CEO Alan Murray. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet