Business elite at Davos strike somber tone this year: ‘Everybody’s a little depressed’


Fresh off one off Wall Street’s calmest years in modern memory, the head of the globe’s largest hedge fund raved about the state of the economy at the 2018 World Economic Forum.

Ray Dalio said in Davos, Switzerland.

“There is a lot of cash on the sidelines. … We’re going to be inundated with cash,” he added at the time from his seat on CNBC’s set. “If you’re holding cash, you’re going to feel pretty stupid.”

He wasn’t the only corporate leader touting a rosy outlook one year ago at Davos. President Donald Trump’s historic Tax Cuts and Jobs Act had pacified economic fears stemming from trade protectionism and tough immigration policy. The then CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, talked about “animal spirits” being unleashed because of it.

But in the following weeks, the stock market plunged into a correction and the S&P 500 would go on to post its worst year in a decade.

This year in Davos, the sentiment of the business elite may have swung too far the other way, to much too negative given the current state of affairs.

“Everybody’s skittish, you talk to enough people and you express your skittishness, and it echoes and it just keeps compounding,” Morgan Stanley’s chief executive, James Gorman, who’s led the bank since 2010, told CNBC on Thursday. “By the third day everybody’s a little depressed, and I spoke at a dinner we hosted last night with a bunch of CEOs and clients and I said I don’t get it, I mean I don’t get it, we’re not living in a depressing economic world at the moment,” he added.

Asked on Tuesday by CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin whether he sees any trouble ahead, Bridgewater’s Dalio reversed his tune from the year prior, and warned of a “significant risk” of a U.S. recession in 2020.

“It’s going to be globally a slow up. It’s not just the United States; it’s Europe; and it’s China and Japan,” the billionaire investment titan said. “Where we are in the later [economic] cycle and the inability of central banks to ease as much, that’s the cauldron that will define 2019 and 2020.”

David Solomon, who succeeded Blankfein as Goldman’s chief executive in October, also offered a chilly forecast and said he sees the chances of a recession rising steadily over the coming years.

Source: CNBC

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