Majority Of US CEOs Express Pessimism That Economy Will Dodge A Recession

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The Federal Reserve hopes to avoid causing a recession as it fights record US inflation
The Federal Reserve hopes to avoid causing a recession as it fights record US inflation

A recession may be looming over the horizon in the U.S. as inflation continues its ascent and measures to contain it have yet to bear significant fruit. For CEOs across the U.S., this does not foretell a promising near future. 

On Wednesday, Conference Board published its latest survey of CEO confidence and found that nearly 60% said that they were expecting the economy to tip into a recession within the next few years. A recession is generally defined as a drop in GDP in two successive quarters.

As part of the survey, CEOs were asked to express their views on employment, wages and capital spending at their firms, as well as their expectations of business conditions in the months ahead. On each of these measures, the CEOs were generally pessimistic.

Asked about current business conditions that their firms operate within, 65% of executives assessed that they were worse in the second quarter compared to 35% who said the same thing in the first. In contrast, only 14% of CEOs rated conditions as better compared to six months ago when 34% said that was the case.

Turning to the future, 60% of respondents predicted economic conditions would worsen in the near future versus only 19% who said they would improve. 

At the heart of their pessimism is the state of inflation and the Federal Reserve's moves to curb it by hiking interest rates, which they say will push the economy into recession. However, 57% of CEOs in the survey said that they expect the recession to be "very short and mild" as opposed to 11% who foresee a challenging recession and 20% who predict a period of stagflation to begin.

Expectations that the U.S. will enter into a recession has been plentiful since the Fed began taking tougher measures to rein in inflation. The Fed raised interest rates by a half-percent earlier this month, the largest increase in 22 years.

 A poll from Reuters, conducted April 4-8 found that one in four economists expect the U.S. to enter a recession this year. A recent survey by the Wall Street Journal found that about 28% of economists said that they expect to see a recession within the year.

According to the most recent reading of the Consumer Price Index, inflation stands at 8.3%, driven primarily by a surge in energy prices. For wholesale goods, the picture is similarly dour with the latest Producer Price Index clocking in at 11%. 

Taken together, the Fed has hardened its stance after previously insisting that the economy was enduring transitory inflation for months. On May 4, the Fed hiked interest rates by half a percentage point, with plans for more increases in the coming months.

On Tuesday, Fed chairman Jerome Powell said that he would not hesitate to restore price stability and that the central bank possessed the resolve to hike rates further.

“Restoring price stability is an unconditional need," Powell said in an interview during The Wall Street Journal’s Future of Everything Festival. "There could be some pain involved.”

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