CEOs seem to be following CFOs in worrying about the impact of the credit crunch and debt crisis. The annual CEO survey by PwC of 1150 executives shows that fears of a downturn now top their list of concerns.
US CEOs are much less confident than a year ago, with only 35% now ‘very confident’ about the short-term outlook. West European CEOs are also downbeat, with only 44% very confident about short-term prospects and just 36% confident about growth over the next 3 years.
This CEO gloom is based on a variety of factors that relate strongly to the chemical industry – the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the credit crunch, rising energy prices. It mirrors the record pessimism shown by CFOs last month in The Economist survey which (as I noted last month), found them worrying about ‘weak consumer demand, high fuel costs, rising labor costs and credit markets’.
The PwC survey is not all gloom, as it does reveal a striking difference between CEO attitudes in the western and emerging economies. PwC reports that ‘CEOs in Asia, Latin America and CEE are more confident’ than last year, and comments that this shows a belief that ‘their booming economies could insulate them’ from problems elsewhere.
However, PwC issue a mild health warning over the results, as the survey was taken at the end of last year. Since then, CEO confidence has probably declined, following recent financial turmoil. There are also growing doubts, as I discussed in December, about whether emerging economies really can ‘decouple’ from the West.