CFOs are paid to worry, but their worries seem to be increasing quite rapidly, according to the results of the quarterly CFO survey by Duke University/The Economist. This showed:

• Record pessimism about the US economy, with US CFOs worrying about ‘weak consumer demand, high fuel costs, rising labor costs and credit markets’.
• European CFOs are ‘dramatically more pessimistic’, and expect employment to fall 0.6%
• Asian CFOs are still optimistic about growth, but almost all CFO’s with Western multinationals said they were being told to increase revenue growth to compensate for slower Western growth.
• A third of Asian CFOs see Chinese growth as likely to slow, whilst 61% of Chinese CFOs expect a US recession to hurt their firms.

Credit market worries are particularly painful for US CFOs, with around half saying that credit has become less available, and that they have experienced an increase in the cost of credit. A third of European CFOs have seen the same impact. US CFOs also noted an increase in ‘hardship withdrawals’ by employees from their 401K savings account, as a result of a need to make mortgage payments or avoid personal bankruptcy.

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