CEO Confidence in Growth Dips Dramatically

CEO Confidence in Growth Dips Dramatically

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Nearly 30% of business leaders believe that global economic growth will decline in the next 12 months, approximately six times the level of 5% last year, a record jump in pessimism. This is one of the key findings of PwC’s 22nd annual survey of 1,300 plus CEOs around the world, launched at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos. This is in vivid contrast to last year’s record jump, 29% to 57%, in optimism about global economic growth prospects.

Although, all is not doom and gloom: 42% still see an improved economic outlook, though this is down significantly from a high of 57% in 2018. Overall, CEOs’ views on global economic growth are more polarised this year but trending downward.  The most pronounced shift was among CEOs in North America, where optimism dropped from 63% in 2018 to 37% likely due to fading of fiscal stimulus and emerging trade tensions. The Middle East also saw a big drop from 52% to 28% due to increased regional economic uncertainty.

The drop in CEO optimism has also impacted growth plans beyond their own country borders. The US narrowly retains its position as the top market for growth at 27%, down significantly from 46% in 2018. The second most attractive market, China, also saw its popularity fall to 24%, down from 33% in 2018. Overall, India is the rising star on the list this year, recently surpassing China as the fastest growing large economy.

“CEOs’ views of the global economy mirror the major economic outlooks, which are adjusting their forecasts downward in 2019,” said Bob Moritz, Global Chairman, PwC. “With the rise of trade tension and protectionism it stands to reason that confidence is waning.” The unease about global economic growth is lowering CEOs’ confidence about their own companies’ outlook in the short term. Thirty-five percent of CEOs said they are ‘very confident’ in their own organisation’s growth prospects over the next 12 months, down from 42% last year.

CEOs’ confidence in China dropped from 40% in 2018 to 35% this year due to trade tensions, US tariffs and weakened industrial production. In the US, the confidence is dropping from 52% to 39% due to trade tensions and slowing economy. Germany marks the drop from 33% to 20%, Argentina from 57% to 19%, and in Russia from 25% to 15%. To drive revenue this year, CEOs plan to rely primarily on operational efficiencies at 77% and organic growth at 71%.

This year’s survey took a deep dive into Data & Analytics and Artificial Intelligence, two key areas on leaders’ radar, to get CEOs’ insights on the challenges and opportunities. “Although organisations in Asia-Pacific, North America, and Western Europe have reported comparable levels of AI adoption, we see a growing divide over their belief about the potential impacts of AI on society and the role government should play in its development,” stated Moritz.

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