The Economy

CEO Confidence Takes Hit From China Slowdown

Only 27% of CEOs polled by PwC expect global economic growth to improve over the next 12 months and two-thirds see more threats to their businesses.
Katie Kuehner-HebertJanuary 20, 2016

China’s economic slowdown and the global slump in oil prices is squashing the confidence of chief executives.

Just 27% of CEOs expect global economic growth to improve over the next 12 months, compared with 37% at the same time last year, according to PwC’s Annual Global CEO survey released in Davos, Switzerland, on the eve of the World Economic Forum.

Two-thirds of 1,409 CEOs in 83 countries surveyed by PwC see more threats facing their businesses today than three years ago. In addition, only slightly more than a third (35%) are very confident of their own company growth in the coming year, down four points on last year (39%).

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China, whose economy grew just 6.9% in 2015, is at the center of concerns.

“You’ve got the second largest economy in the world that until now has seen very, very good growth rates when many others were really struggling, and now we are seeing a real slowdown,” PwC Chaiman Dennis Nally told Reuters. “There are big concerns with regard to currency and the stock market, and there are real questions about what this means for China’s ability to transform its economy.”

Alex Molinaroli, CEO of Johnson Controls, which has major operations in China, does not think the country’s economic fundamentals are as bad as the recent slump in the local stock market might suggest, but he worries about the ripples spreading from China.

“We’re seeing the impact on commodities, especially oil, and that is going to have major ramifications,” Molinaroli said. “The energy sector is what has got everybody as nervous as anything else.”

He added that while Europe and North America are “doing okay,” there are real concerns for many emerging markets.

Confidence among U.S. CEOs surveyed by PwC fell to 33% from 46% in 2015, echoing similar declines in other Western countries including Germany and Britain. The rare bright spot was India, where 64% of CEOs expressed confidence in short-term sales growth, up from 62% last year.

The PwC survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2015. “You can imagine that if we had done it in the first weeks of January then the picture would have been even gloomier,” Nally said.