Still, although the proportion of CEOs forecasting worsening business conditions is the lowest since January 2022—at 28 percent—not everyone is convinced the worst will soon be behind us.
“Continued rise of interest rates against a rising tide of leading indicators that would dictate that interest rates are already at a level that is materially slowing the economy,” says Douglas Clark, Chairman, CEO and Founder at Corcentric, a software tech and consulting firm, who expects business conditions to deteriorate to a 4 out of 10.
“There are fears of a small recession as a result of the Fed’s actions. The brakes are being applied to the economy “harder” than any time in my professional life,” says Davies Hood, President of Induron Coatings, LLC, a small manufacturing company. He expects conditions to deteriorate over the next 12 months, dropping to a 6/10 in January 2024 from an 8/10 now, he goes on, “I know that eventually there will be a slowdown. Hopefully, not a complete stop.”
The Year Ahead
The proportion of CEOs forecasting profits to increase over the course of the next 12 months climbed 5 percent to 61 percent in January, up from 59 percent in December—now the highest proportion forecasting increasing profits since March of 2022.
“Disruption and gloom creates opportunity, every break out happened during crisis,” says Roy Taylor, CEO of Ryff, a tech-first advertising company, who projects profit increases over 20 percent over the course of the year.
However, the proportion of CEOs expecting revenues to grow over the same period dropped by 3 percent this month and is now at 70 percent. Similarly, the proportion of CEOs planning increases in capex and hiring both fell in January, to 44 and 51 percent, respectively.
Most CEOs point to inflation and interest rates driving up the price of debt and investments as an explanation for why many businesses are pulling back, a trend that is spreading to hiring as well.
“Continuing inflation, drawdown of working capital, and continuing challenge with hiring and maintaining labor,” says the CEO of a mid-size financial services firm who intends to make no changes to his hiring or capex plans over the next 12 months.