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PwC: More than half of the world's CEOs expect a slowdown in growth

Julia La Roche

Despite a strong U.S. economy and robust stock markets, more than half of chief executive officers expect the pace of global economic growth to decline this year.

According to a new survey released by PwC, CEOs are growing increasingly pessimistic, with 53% anticipating a decline in economic growth in 2020. The firm released its 23rd annual survey at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, interviewing 1,600 CEOs across 83 countries.

To put that figure in perspective, it was just a year ago that CEOs expressed record levels of optimism about the economy. At the time, 57% responded that gross domestic GDP growth would improve and only 29% expressing pessimism about future economic growth. In 2020, only 22% of CEOs project there will be a rise in the rate of economic growth in 2020.

The main contributor to the cynicism is uncertainty across a range of issues, and comes as the International Monetary Fund is slashing its own expectations for global growth. Separately, uncertainty and skepticism also linger over U.S.-China trade relations in the wake of a “Phase One” deal both sides agreed to just last week.

“Given the lingering uncertainty over trade tensions, geopolitical issues and the lack of agreement on how to deal with climate change, the drop in confidence in economic growth is not surprising — even if the scale of the change in mood is,” said Bob Moritz, PwC Networks’ chairman.

An investor uses his mobile phone in front of a stock quotation board at a brokerage office in Beijing, China January 3, 2020. REUTERS/Jason Lee
An investor uses his mobile phone in front of a stock quotation board at a brokerage office in Beijing, China January 3, 2020. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The firm noted that the sentiment CEOs express about their own companies tends to correlate with the growth of the global economy.

While CEOs are pessimistic about the broader economy, they’re also not upbeat about the outlook for their own companies. Only 27% said they’re “very confident” about their firm’s growth in the next year — the lowest level since 2009, and a decline of 35% from a year ago.

Breaking the results down further, corporate leaders based in China and India have the highest levels of confidence, at 45% and 40%, respectively. U.S.-based executives checked in at 36%, followed by Canada at 27% and the U.K. at 26%.

The lowest levels of confidence are Germany at 20%, France at 18%, and Japan at 11%, according to PwC

Julia La Roche is a Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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