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CLEVELAND — Business conditions in the U.S. will modestly improve or stay the course this year. That’s the prediction of 75% of the business executives who responded to the 10th annual McDonald Hopkins Business Outlook Survey. Only 21% expect business conditions to decline. When asked about their own organizations, expectations are similar—77% say business conditions will either improve modestly or stay the same. 

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Despite responses indicating most expect business conditions to remain stable or modestly improve, many of the comments voice concerns over instability, volatility, and variability. As one respondent wrote, “even very early in 2020, we have noted caution being displayed by customers, vendors, employment candidates and existing employees… our sense is that more feet will be on brake pedals than on gas pedals.”

The presidential election is clearly top of mind. When asked how closely they are following the presidential campaign, 78% say they are watching it closely or very closely. A considerable majority of 69% expect President Trump to be reelected. However, 39% of those foresee President Trump getting reelected only if the economy stays strong.

Out of 13 potential obstacles facing organizations this year, increasing healthcare costs is ranked as the greatest challenge with stiff competition coming in second and employee issues in third.

Not surprisingly, 92% of the respondents are concerned about data privacy and cybersecurity threats to their organizations. As one participant commented, “I believe cybersecurity will become the #1 threat to overall consumer confidence in 2020.”

How will the Federal Reserve handle interest rates in 2020? A majority of 63% expect interest rates to stay the same this year, compared to last year when 71% predicted interest rates to rise.

Fifty six percent plan to increase their number of employees in 2020, while 49% expected an in increase last year.

On the topic of investing in capital assets, 50% say their organizations will invest this year. In 2019, 60% expected capital asset investment.

The 2020 Business Outlook Survey was conducted from Jan. 6, 2020 through Jan. 26, 2020. 
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