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Marcum-Hofstra Survey: Mid-Market CEOs Split on Effects of U.S. Trade Policies and Tariffs

CEOs of middle-market companies are split on whether U.S. trade policy is helping the nation’s economy, with nearly 60 percent reporting their businesses are feeling the effects of new tariffs on imports from China and Mexico, according to the latest poll from Marcum LLP and Hofstra University’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business. At the same time, the survey found that business leaders are positive about the overall business environment. Seven out of ten CEOs rated their outlook for the coming year as eight or higher out of 10.

Just over 45 percent of CEOs believe current trade policies benefit the economy, while 42.6 percent said the policies are harmful. The numbers shifted when the CEOs were asked to assess how trade policies affected their own companies: 35.7 percent said the policies were favorable, 31.8 percent said business suffered and 27.1 percent reported no impact.

“The nearly even dichotomy among middle-market CEOs regarding the impact of U.S trade policy and how it is affecting their businesses is remarkable, although not completely unexpected,” said Jeffrey M. Weiner, Marcum’s chairman & chief executive officer, a Hofstra alumnus. “It speaks to the underlying uncertainty business leaders are facing in a highly volatile economic environment. The good news is that CEOs are clearly optimistic about the short-term future, even more so now than earlier in the year. It will be interesting to see how the anomaly plays out when—or if—U.S.-China trade talks resume, as was announced last week.”

The Marcum LLP-Hofstra University CEO Survey is being conducted as part of the Zarb School of Business MBA curriculum and will be presented in three installments in 2019.

Some of key findings from the second installment of the survey:

  • A majority of CEOs (58%) say their business have been directly or indirectly impacted by the imposition of tariffs on selected products from China and Mexico, with 34.1 percent reporting a direct impact and 38 percent reporting no impact.zarb school b
  • Of those who said their businesses have been impacted by the tariffs, 55 percent said they would pass some or all of the costs on to their customers, 47 percent said they would absorb the cost of the tariffs through reduced earnings, 43 percent said they would seek new suppliers outside of China, and 42.3 percent said they would bring manufacturing back to the U.S.
  • CEOs across all 15 industry sectors expressed a positive view of the current business environment overall. Nearly a quarter gave their outlook the highest rating of 10, up from 18.4 percent in the first Marcum-Hofstra survey earlier this year.

Continued investment in technology is a top-tier priority for 67.4 percent of all CEOs responding to the survey, and the first priority for 26.4 percent. Other top investment priorities included equipment upgrades (48.8%), talent recruitment (45.7%), and workforce training (34.1%).

“Our partnership with Marcum not only helps to prepare our students to become better, more thoughtful business leaders,” said Zarb School Dean Janet Lenaghan, “it provides a service to the business community with industry-specific data that can help shape strategy and tactics for long-term economic development.”

Said Dr. Andrew Forman, associate professor of marketing and director of the co-op MBA program: “Our students learn about corporate decision-making in the classroom, but this collaboration offers them an opportunity to see those decisions being made in real time, through the lens of the current business environment, which provides valuable insights about the perceived impact and strategic response on the part of company leaders.

About the Survey

C-suite executives at 258 companies participated in the second Marcum LLP – Hofstra University CEO Survey, which was conducted over the summer. Participating industries included:

  • Advertising/Marketing/PR/Media/Entertainment
  • Construction/Engineering/Mining
  • Energy
  • Financial Services
  • Government and Non-Profit
  • Health Care (Providers and Payers)
  • Technology/Telecommunications/Information Technology
  • Manufacturing (consumer goods)
  • Manufacturing (industrial goods)
  • Personal/Consumer Services
  • Pharmaceuticals & Medical Products
  • Professional Services
  • Real Estate
  • Retailing
  • Transportation
  • Travel and Leisure
  • Wholesale Distribution
  • Other

For the complete Marcum LLP-Hofstra University CEO Survey and an archive of prior surveys, visit www.marcumllp.com

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