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2023: How CEOs’ Predictions Stacked Up

In December 2022, Chief Executive surveyed CEOs from around the country on their predictions for 2023. After a banking crisis, a tipping point in geopolitics and the emergence of generative AI, did their predictions hold up?

Last year ended with crazy winter storms, ongoing fighting in Ukraine and a fun new AI chatbot that seemed to show some promise writing bland term papers and chipper poetry.  

Could anyone have predicted the wild ride ahead and where we’d be today? Probably not. But that didn’t keep us from asking the U.S. CEO community to give it a try. In December 2022 we asked CEOs to predict where a few key barometers of business and politics like the Dow Jones Industrial Average, interest rates and oddsmakers’ take on the horserace for president—would be in December 2023.   

So now, as has become a tradition, let’s look back and see how CEOs did. Overall, the results are…mixed. You nailed some bets but on others you missed by, well, a lot. (We’re asking you to share your 2024 forecasts now—please do, here). Let’s dive in: 

The Stock Market: Correct! 

When asked in December 2022 to forecast where the Dow Jones Industrial Average would be in December 2023, 53 percent of CEOs we polled said between 35,000 and 40,000. Well, you nailed this one, thanks to an early holiday gift from the Fed that fueled the Dow past 37,000 for the first time last week. Of course, 2023 hasn’t ended yet—there’s still room for some additional twist—but under the wildly-unscientific criteria of our contest here, we’ll call it a win. Congrats!  

The Economy: Not Correct! 

CEOs were also asked whether they expected the U.S. would experience a recession in 2023 and — whoops — 90 percent of those polled predicted that the U.S. would enter a mild recession in 2023. While some sectors like manufacturing had a bumpy time, overall, the U.S. economy retained consistent growth, a tight jobs market and even a surprisingly strong holiday season for consumers—despite a slew of Fed attempts to cool things down. 

Inflation: Correct! 

On the other hand, CEOs were spot-on with their predictions about inflation—82 percent predicted it would subside gradually in 2023. Considering inflation peaked at 9.1 percent in June 2022 and has been on a gradual decline ever since, it’s safe to say that CEOs knew what was coming. Is inflation gone? Nope. But it isn’t what it was. Thank goodness. 

Interest Rates: Close!  

CEOs narrowly missed on predictions about 2023 Fed policy in the December 2022 survey. Almost half of all CEOs polled expected interest rates to end 2023 at between 4 and 5 percent. A slightly smaller proportion (42 percent) correctly predicted that the Fed would raise rates above 5 percent to their current levels of 5.25 to 5.50 percent.  

China: Correct! 

In any democracy you’d expect Xi Jinping would have a tough time staying in power. But as CEOs correctly predicted, this is China—so continued Covid, human rights and economic issues don’t mean a change in leadership anytime soon. Some 90 percent of those we polled in December 2022 said Xi would be president in December 2023. Perhaps this one is too easy.  

Russia/Ukraine: Correct, Sadly. 

In December 2022, we also asked CEOs to share their forecast for the status of the Russia/Ukraine war December 2023. Some 45 percent of CEOs forecasted a continued slog, meaning that fighting would continue with Russia still holding on to Ukranian territory. Another 41 percent of CEOs predicted a brokered halt, such as a cease-fire or negotiated peace agreement. Unfortunately, and by a slim margin, CEOs were right again on this one as the war continues to grind into 2024 with no end in sight.  

The Race for President: Not Even Close!  

Finally, we wanted to get an early look at the upcoming presidential election, and we found a whopping 81 percent of CEOs in our poll thought that Ron DeSantis would have the best odds of most likely next U.S. president as of December 2023 according to bookmakers, when we asked them in December of last year. Only 7 percent thought the leader would be Joe Biden and no one thought it would be Donald Trump.

CEO predictions were far off. Republicans still haven’t picked a nominee; however, it is unlikely to be DeSantis according to most major polls. According to the most recent Iowa Republican Presidential Caucus, Trump is in the lead to be the Republican nominee, by a large margin.  

So much for polling, right? While Republicans still haven’t even picked a nominee, oddsmakers now have Trump as the front-runner to win the White House, with Biden a somewhat-distant second. As for DeSantis, as of last week, he trailed Nikki Haley, California Governor Gavin Newsom, Michelle Obama and Robert Kennedy Jr. among potential—and some outlandish—contenders. The only name he’s running ahead of: Vice President Kamala Harris. Care to try again? Share your forecast for 2024 here >> 


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