Chief financial officers around the world expect that hiring will remain lackluster and credit will be hard to come by.
In a poll that concluded last week, Duke University and CFO magazine asked 937 global CFOs where they thought the economy was heading.
A majority of the U.S. respondents were pessimistic. The U.S. sentiment score fell to 49, on a 100-point scale – a level not seen since the first quarter of 2009.
Few American CFOs said improvement would occur on the hiring front: On average, U.S. survey respondents said their companies' payrolls would expand by just 0.7 percent in the next 12 months.
And credit conditions are expected to be far from robust. Half of the small-business CFOs who participated in the survey said credit was tougher to access than it had been in 2009.
"Small and medium-sized firms have employment-generating projects that they cannot get financed because banks will not extend credit," Duke finance professor Campbell R. Harvey said.
While the CFOs' economic outlook is anything but positive, motivated entrepreneurs may be able to seize on opportunities that others are too apprehensive to take. In tough times – perhaps more so than in good years – fortune favors the bold.