In stark contrast to recent findings in a survey of CEOs by the Business Roundtable, optimism among chief financial officers about the U.S. economy plunged to a record low this quarter, driven by growing concern about weak consumer demand, high fuel costs, rising labor costs and credit markets. This pessimism will slow growth in earnings, capital spending, and hiring.   ; These are some of the conclusions of the year-end 2007 Duke University/CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook survey, which asked CFOs from a broad range of global public and private companies about their expectations for the economy.   ; Summary of Findings:
Optimism reached its lowest point since the optimism index was launched six years ago. Pessimists outnumber optimists by an eight-to-one margin, with 72 percent of CFOs more pessimistic and only 9 percent more optimistic about the U.S. economy than they were last quarter.
Weak consumer demand, high labor and fuel costs, and credit market turmoil are the top concerns of CFOs.
Credit conditions have directly hurt one-third of companies, most through decreased availability of credit.
At nearly one in five companies, employees have increased hardship withdrawals from their 401(k) accounts, in many cases to make mortgage payments or ward off personal bankruptcy.
Year-end bonuses will fall by 10 percent relative to last year.
Among firms with greater than one-fourth of sales in foreign locations, more than 60 percent have taken actions in response to the depreciated dollar by increasing hedging (expanding the range of investments to reduce risk) or changing the location of investments and outsourced employment.
Capital spending is expected to increase only 4.1 percent, and domestic employment will increase only 0.5 percent, though outsourced employment should rise 5.6 percent.