Jun 12, 2019
U.S. CEO confidence drops to lowest level of Trump presidency
China-U.S. conflict is here to stay: Natixis Investment Managers CEO
U.S. chief executives including JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon criticized President Donald Trump’s trade wars Wednesday after releasing a Business Roundtable survey showing their confidence in the economy continues to erode.
The lobbying group for large companies said its CEO Economic Outlook cooled in the second quarter for a fifth straight time and fell to the lowest level since Trump took office -- though it still remains elevated.
The direct effect of further trade tariffs will be negative, hurt business confidence, and increase the risk of a downturn, Dimon said at an event hosted by the group in Washington. The Roundtable is not in favor of tariffs, though there are real issues with China, said Dimon, who’s chairman of the group.
His comments were echoed by Cummins Inc. CEO Tom Linebarger, who said the burden of tariffs now exceeds the benefits of Trump’s tax cuts for the the Indiana-based maker of diesel engines and equipment. And removing tariffs, he said, could help the U.S. economy avoid a slowdown.
“It’s a large number, and we’re the ones now paying China import tariffs,” Linebarger said. “If those tariffs are removed it’s another tax cut essentially, back down to where we were with the tax reform act.”
Dimon said that if the administration increased tariffs on a further $300 billion in imports from China as Trump has threatened, the impact would go beyond the relatively small direct cost for the world’s largest economy and affect business sentiment and investment.
“It adds to the risk of pushing us into a downturn,” Dimon said. “It just raises the risk of a bad outcome. That is all it does.”
International Business Machines Corp. CEO Ginni Rometty said at the event that uncertainty is now the biggest risk to the economy.
The Economic Outlook index fell 5.7 points to 89.5, the lowest since the fourth quarter of 2016, but the results remain above the gauge’s historical average of 82.6 and well above the 50-point threshold signaling expansion.
The data are based on a survey of 127 CEOs conducted from May 16 to June 3. During that period, tensions between the U.S. and two of its largest trading partners -- China and Mexico -- intensified.
“CEO plans for hiring and capital investment remain healthy, but uncertainty about U.S. trade policy, softening global growth conditions and inaction on other pressing public policy issues are a concern,” Dimon said in a statement with the report.
- Sales expectations also fell to the lowest of Trump’s presidency, the survey showed.
- Plans for capital investment and hiring both dropped to the weakest levels since 2017.
- CEOs projected a 2.6 per cent expansion in the U.S. economy this year, up from a 2.5 per cent estimate in the first quarter.
- The overall measure of CEO confidence has eased each quarter since reaching a record high in the first quarter of 2018.