A Look Back At CEO Confidence Levels

ceo confidenceOctober 2002. A year after 9/11. The House votes to authorize the use of force in Iraq;
terrorists kill 182 people in Bali. The Dow Jones Industrial Average spirals down to a multi-year low of 7,286. Amid the turmoil, Chief Executive launches a monthly poll of U.S. CEOs asking about your outlook for business and the economy.

We’re all familiar with that old Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times. Well, these
times have been nothing if not interesting. From spiking in late 2003 on word that the Iraq war was won (“Mission Accomplished!”) only to sink to an all-time low in 2008 as we plunged into the Great Recession, our CEO Confidence Index has reflected the era. Yet, somehow, through innovation, pluck and just sheer luck, we’ve survived, and sometimes even thrived. Ten years after TARP, revenues are shaping up nicely and CEO confidence is nearing all-time highs.

CEOs tell us growth is being fueled by the corporate tax cut, which is freeing up cash for
investments that have been back-burnered for a decade. Eight out of 10 CEOs we polled in
February say they expect both revenues and profits to rise over the next 12 months. But it isn’t just that. The momentum we’re seeing is built on years of hard work. These have been tough, transformational times for CEOs, and you responded.

So it seems as good a time as any to take a breath, take stock and look back for a minute. Congratulations. You made it. But if the last decade-plus has taught us anything, it’s this: Enjoy the good times while you can. You never know when things will get interesting again.

Melanie C. Nolen
Melanie is research editor for Corporate Board Member and Chief Executive. She has more than ten years of experience writing for the corporate and financial industry across Canada and the United States. She is based in Nashville, Tennessee.

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