60% of CEOs expect recession by 2023: Conference Board

Fears of an economic downturn are growing among CEOs, with some convinced the economy has already rolled over.

The majority of chief executive officers and other C-suite leaders across the globe believe their geographic region will enter a recession by the end of 2023, according to a survey from the Conference Board released Friday.

The business research firm found that 60% of CEOs expect the economy to contract in their primary area of operations in the next 12 to 18 months. Some 15% of CEOs say they believe their region has already entered recession.

This increasingly pessimistic sentiment among business leaders regarding the economic outlook comes as central banks around the world lay out aggressive plans to raise interest rates in a bid to quell multi-decade highs in inflation. In the U.S., the Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised interest rates by 0.75%, its largest increase since 1994.

More than 60 percent of CEOs globally say they expect a recession in their primary region of operations before the end of 2023 or earlier, a sentiment shared by other C-suite executives.
More than 60 percent of CEOs globally say they expect a recession in their primary region of operations before the end of 2023 or earlier, a sentiment shared by other C-suite executives.

The central bank's larger-than-expected rate increase prompted a wave of downwardly revised forecasts on Wall Street. Economists at Bank of America Global Research slashed their U.S. growth forecast this week, and the firm now sees a 40% chance of recession next year.

Meanwhile, strategists at JPMorgan said the S&P 500's decline implies an 85% chance of recession. Earlier this week, the S&P 500 (^GSPC) entered a bear market.

But many U.S. CEOs had already indicated they were bracing for an economic slowdown even before the Fed’s latest move.

In recent weeks, top business leaders including JPMorgan (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon and Tesla (TSLA) chief Elon Musk have expressed concerns about the economic outlook — and even taken measures to prepare for what they've warned are challenging times ahead.

Elon Musk pauses and looks down as he speaks during a press conference at SpaceX's Starbase facility near Boca Chica Village in South Texas on February 10, 2022. - Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk delivered an eagerly-awaited update on SpaceX's Starship, a prototype rocket the company is developing for crewed interplanetary exploration. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Elon Musk pauses and looks down as he speaks during a press conference on February 10, 2022. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Earlier in June, Musk said he had a "super bad feeling" about the economy, revealing a plan to trim about 10% of jobs at the electric-vehicle maker and "pause all hiring worldwide."

Musk's warning came the same week Dimon spurred a wave of recession chatter, telling attendees at a business conference that an economic "hurricane" was underway.

“You’d better brace yourself,” Dimon told an audience of analysts and investors. “JPMorgan is bracing ourselves and we’re going to be very conservative with our balance sheet.”

Like Tesla, other companies have also signaled that their outlooks are grim by revising hiring plans or laying off workers.

Citing preparations for an “economic downturn,” crypto exchange Coinbase (COIN) fired 18% of its staff this week. And in the real estate sector, an increasingly troubling housing market has prompted job cuts at both Redfin (RDFN) and Compass (COMP).

Still, even as many leaders sound the alarm, some maintain a more tempered view on the economy.

Morgan Stanley (MS) CEO James Gorman at a recent conference suggested he thinks a recession is on the table but not inevitable, pointing to bright spots in the current environment: strong corporate balance sheets, solid consumer spending, and a tight labor market.

“It’s possible we will go into a recession obviously," Gorman said at an investor panel on Monday. “There are 50-50 odds now.”

Alexandra Semenova is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alexandraandnyc

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