'CEO pessimism' at a decade high: report

About 73 percent of CEOs believe economic growth will decline over the next year, the most pessimistic outlook since PwC began asking the question as part of its annual CEO survey 12 years ago. 

When this question was asked in the 2021 and 2022 surveys, more than three-quarters of CEOs had an optimistic outlook that economic growth would improve. 

"A volatile economy, decades-high inflation, and geopolitical conflict have contributed to a level of CEO pessimism not seen in over a decade," Bob Moritz, global chairman at PwC, said in a  news release. "CEOs globally are consequently re-evaluating their operating models and cutting costs, yet despite these pressures, they are continuing to put their people front and center as they look to retain talent in the wake of the Great Resignation." 

The consulting firm published its "26th Annual Global CEO Survey" on Jan. 16. More than 4,400 CEOs from 105 countries and territories were surveyed between October and November. 

Here are four more findings from the report:

1. Nearly 40 percent of CEOs do not believe their organizations will be economically viable in a decade if they continue on their current course. This was consistent among respondents in a range of sectors, including healthcare (42 percent).

2. CEOs are cutting costs without reducing head count or pay. Half of CEOs indicated they are reducing operating costs. About the same reported raising prices. Meanwhile, 60 percent of CEOs said they do not plan on reducing head count over the next 12 months. Eighty percent said they do not plan to reduce compensation. 

3. CEOs rank inflation (40 percent,) macroeconomic volatility (31 percent) and geopolitical conflict (25 percent) as top global threats.  A year ago, cyber and health risks were the top concerns. 

4. Managing climate risk is a growing priority for CEOs, with 58 percent indicating they are developing a strategy to reduce emissions and mitigate risks. About 50 percent of respondents believe climate risk affects their cost profiles, and 42 percent believe it affects their supply chains from a "moderate to very large extent." 

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