46 percent of CFOs say their No. 1 risk is a slowdown in consumer demand worldwide, survey reveals

  • The CNBC Global CFO Council has released its latest quarterly survey results.
  • More than 45 percent of executives put consumer demand as their primary concern.
  • This replaces U.S. trade policy as the chief concern in boardrooms around the world.

Flagging demand from consumers is replacing U.S. trade policy as the chief concern in boardrooms around the world, according to a CNBC survey.

President Donald Trump has followed through on preelection promises to address what he considers unfair trade practices by a number of countries. The United States and China have become embroiled in a trade spat that has seen tariffs levied on billions of exported goods.

Fears that the isolationist U.S. trade policy could trim global growth have brought volatility to equity markets, although this year the S&P 500 has managed to push higher by more than 8.6 percent.

But according to the latest CNBC Global CFO Council quarterly survey, published Thursday, only 10.4 percent of chief financial officers now view U.S. trade policy as the main external risk to their business.

Of the respondents, 45.8 percent said that consumer demand represents the biggest risk. That number marks the highest figure recorded by the survey in the last two years.

The CNBC Global CFO Council represents some of the largest public and private companies in the world, collectively managing nearly 5 trillion in market value.

To other questions asked, the majority of respondents said the U.S. Federal Reserve remains on track to raise interest rates three times in 2018. One-third of CFOs asked said the Fed could raise rates four times or more, marking a strong rise from the same question asked during the previous quarter.

On the question of stocks, exactly 50 percent expect the Dow Jones Industrial Average will rise above 27,000, in comparison to 20.8 percent who see it falling back below 23,000 first. The remainder are unsure.

The council's global economic outlook remains finely balanced, with only two of 11 countries or regions — Brazil, and Latin America excluding Brazil — seen as "declining." All other areas were rated as "stable," except for the United States, which is "improving."

(Note: Forty-eight of the 113 current members of the CNBC Global CFO Council responded to this quarter's survey, including 22 North American-based members, 15 EMEA-based members and 11 APAC-based members. The survey was conducted from Sept. 7–17, 2018.)

Complete survey results below:

North American respondents only: