Not that anybody needed any more gloomy forecasts of the U.S. economy's performance in the new year, but new survey results indicate corporate chief financial officers are none too optimistic. In fact, the overall level of optimism is at an all-time low. Granted, the survey is only 12 years old, but it has correlated strongly with earnings growth, capital spending and employment in its somewhat brief history. Roughly 60 percent of CFOs believe that the U.S. economy won't recover before the fourth quarter of next year and about 40 percent indicate no real likelihood of improvement until some time in 2010.

Coming on the heels of an abysmal November employment report and steep increases in continuing unemployment insurance claims, the CFO survey suggests very little upside for the labor market during the next year. An average payroll reduction of 5 percent is reportedly planned for the next 12 months, but the job cuts are expected to be targeted rather than across-the-board type layoffs that were common in the previous recession. Meanwhile, other expenditures such as capital investments, technology and outsourcing are also on the chopping block.


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