American CEOs don't see US economic slowdown yet, says head of executive group

  • Global CEOs are seeing a bit of a slowdown outside the United States, says The Conference Board's Steve Odland.
  • However, that's not what U.S. chief executives are saying about the nation's economy, he says.
  • "The U.S. numbers look very strong," he says.

Global CEOs are seeing a bit of a slowdown outside the United States, but that's not what U.S. chief executives are saying about the nation's economy, according to Steve Odland, president and CEO of The Conference Board.

The organization, a global, independent business membership and research association, conducts a number of CEO and confidence studies.

"The U.S. numbers look very strong. All of the Conference Board indicators from the consumer confidence index to the leading economic indicators to the expectations index all say that the next six months expect to be very good," said Odland, a CNBC contributor who once served as CEO of both Office Depot and AutoZone.

He told CNBC's "Power Lunch" on Friday the group's forecast for 2018 gross domestic product is about 3.1 percent, while 2019's is 3.2 percent.

Its leading economic index for September increased 0.5 percent and its consumer confidence index moved up 2.6 points in October. However, its measure of CEO confidence declined in the third quarter, thanks to concerns about rising interest rates.

Odland's remarks follow CNBC's Jim Cramer's comments that CEOs are telling him how quickly things have cooled in the economy.

"So many of them are baffled that we could find ourselves in this late-cycle dilemma that wasn't supposed to occur so soon," the "Mad Money" host said on Thursday.

Odland didn't say that Cramer was wrong. Instead, he pointed out that there are some sectors that may be experiencing a slowdown.

"Ten years into a recovery, you would expect to see some of the leading sectors, some of the leading companies on that cycle to begin to slow down. And you would expect to see different geographic issues," he said. "It's a mixed bag."

Bill George, former Medtronic chairman and a CNBC contributor, agrees. For example, the retail sector has never been better, and health-care execs are bullish, he said. However, for the auto sector it is near the end of the business cycle, he added.

"We are at the end of a very long cycle," he told "Power Lunch." "It could continue for several years, but everyone's concerned about risk."

He said the biggest risk is global trade, specifically with China.

— CNBC's Elizabeth Gurdus contributed to this report.