A jarring new survey shows US CEOs think a recession could strike as soon as year-end

The Big Short/ Paramount Pictures
  • Economists and investors alike have been sounding the alarm for months on an economic recession.
  • The New York Times recently surveyed 134 business leaders at the Yale CEO Summit and found that almost half expected a recession to strike by the end of the year.
  • That’s the most dire reading yet, and it shows just how worried corporate executives are about an imminent economic downturn.

As the economic cycle pushes further into its late stages, chatter about the next recession is growing louder.

And if the results of a recent New York Times survey are any indication, fear around the next economic meltdown is close to hitting a fever pitch.

The publication surveyed 134 business leaders at the Yale CEO Summit, an invitation-only gathering where executives from companies including Ford, Verizon, and Morgan Stanley get together and talk shop. It found that almost half of the respondents thought the US could face an economic recession by the end of 2018.

Sure, recessionary warning signs have been flashing for months, but most experts have not been expecting the ax to fall until the second half of 2019 or sometime in 2020. The fact that such a large percentage of the high-ranking executives were so worried about an immediate downturn speaks volumes about the trepidation that’s seeped into the business landscape in recent weeks.

One recession signal that has been widely discussed is the yield curve, which inverted earlier this month for the first time this cycle. That implies investors are getting more worried about the immediate future than the long term – a development that has historically been an accurate predictor of recessions.

Investing legends such as Ray Dalio and Byron Wien have also expressed concern over mounting recessionary risk. Dalio – the billionaire founder of the world’s largest hedge fund – recently outlined for Business Insider his next recession scenario, comparing conditions to the Great Depression era. And Wien – the vice chairman of Blackstone’s private wealth solutions group – says we’re ill-equipped to handle the meltdown.

While it may be the most recent, the New York Times survey is hardly the only one sounding the alarm on a recession. Eight-two per cent of chief financial officers surveyed in the recent Duke CFO Global Business Outlook saw a recession beginning by the end of 2020, while nearly half saw it occurring by the end of 2019.

All traders can do at this point is start to position defensively in anticipation for the eventual downturn. To that end, JPMorgan has studied decades of market history and compiled a playbook. This type of preparation is perhaps the most prudent approach for what’s shaping up to be tumultuous territory.

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