The global financial crash was seven years ago, but now China has been laid low and Europe is being overrun by refugees. Brazil has tanked, and U.S. growth remains a paltry 2%. Meanwhile, stock-market gyrations are a continual source of whiplash and interest rates can’t seem to move much off zero.
Yet, the near-miraculous domestic auto recovery continues apace. Oil prices have slid, making consumers happier. The U.S. unemployment rate is back down close to the magic 5% number, and companies surely are hiring.
Spending on the presidential campaign alone could be enough to juice the economy. To be sure, disparate sets of indicators have been running through American CEOs’ heads as they try to sort out the direction of business heading into 2016. The good-news and bad-news scenarios aren’t easily reconciled and obviously tug at business chiefs in offsetting ways. Yet, on the whole, most CEOs report seeing a rosier picture than they have had in some time. Not only has the U.S. economy flipped decisively into a growth mode, demonstrating the ability to shake off one drag after another, but the nation has assumed global economic leadership once again.
So while being cautious, most company leaders have adopted a growth bias toward next year. “We look at the United States now as a shining city on a hill, pretty robust and strong and stable,” says David Zuchowski, CEO of Hyundai Motor America, owned by the Korean Hyundai Chaebol. “Our parent looks to us to help lead its global growth because of our stability.”
Asher Raphael, CEO of the mid-market leader Power Home Remodeling Group, echoes this bullish sentiment. “We feel confident in the U.S. economy,” he says. “The unemployment rate is a great indicator. Interest rates are still at all-time lows, banks are starting to lend again and consumer confidence is increasing. I feel like the country has finally stared down the Great Recession.”
Annually, Chief Executive magazine talks with a handful of notable CEOs, diversified by size, industry and geography, about their outlooks. This year’s group includes a wide swath of large, mid-market and even small companies, providing products and services, both consumer facing and business-to-business outfits.
We asked them three questions: What is in your crystal ball for your company and your industry for the year ahead? What is your outlook for the U.S. and global economies? And what issue or challenge are you most concerned about? Here are synopses of what 15 CEOs said.