Director Confidence Continues To Improve In May, Despite Recession Fears

Director Confidence Index
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May reading of director confidence shows directors’ confidence in business conditions 12 months from now back to pre-bank crisis level, at highest point in more than a year.

After a sharp decline in March, Corporate Board Member’s Director Confidence Index clawed back nearly all of its remaining losses in May, climbing another 2 percent, to 6.2, as measured on a 10-point scale where 10 is Excellent and 1 is Poor.

That’s a second consecutive uptick in optimism after a 5 percent jump in April. At its current level, the forward-looking indicator—based on a monthly survey of U.S. public company board members conducted in partnership with the Diligent Institute—is almost fully in line with where it was in February (at 6.3 out of 10), the highest point it has reached over the past 12 months.

Confidence in current business conditions is also up 3 percent, to 6.3, from 5.1 in April. That is the highest level the index has been in over 12 months, since April 2022 (6.6).

While a level of 6.2 is within “Good” territory, according to the 10-point scale, it is still not far from “Weak” (between 4 and 6 on the scale) and remains well below where it was in 2021.

Directors say they expect that a year from now the Fed will have largely beaten inflation and stopped raising interest rates, but not without causing damage, including a spike in unemployment, slowing demand and putting some banks at risk of failure, all against the backdrop of what should be another tumultuous presidential election year.

Ana Dutra, who serves on the boards of Carparts, Amyris and Pembina Pipeline, says the political, economic and social instability is driving her 12-month forecast of 3 out of 10 (down from a 6 today). “The upcoming elections, inflation, recession, global supply chain issues,” she says, are all adding to the gloomy outlook.

She’s hardly alone. Despite the improved forecast overall, 42 percent of the 140 directors surveyed said they expect conditions to deteriorate over the next 12 months, up from 36 percent in April. Many say a recession is now unavoidable—with several saying we’ve already crossed into that territory.

All of this aligns with findings from Diligent Institute’s Corporate Sentiment Tracker, an AI-powered tool monitoring the issues corporate leaders are speaking about most frequently in the news and whether they are feeling positively or negatively about those issues. At the time this story is being written, the news being analyzed in the Sentiment Tracker is about 54% positive.

THE YEAR AHEAD

Asked to forecast their own organization’s performance in the 12 months ahead, directors expect slower growth as well. Perhaps unsurprisingly with a potential recession on the horizon, the proportion of directors who expect their organization to increase capital expenditures in the months ahead dropped to 26 percent in May, from 35 percent in April.

Similarly, the proportion of directors who forecast revenues and profits to increase ticked down again, to 60 and 55 percent respectively—from 69 and 62 the month prior. That’s not to say they expect revenues and profits to decline; instead, a growing proportion say they expect flat growth (16 and 21 percent, respectively, from 9 and 16 percent in April).

About the Director Confidence Index

The Director Confidence Index is a monthly survey of public company board members on the state of the overall economy, the outlook for business and other topical issues impacting public companies. Conducted in collaboration between Corporate Board Member and Diligent Institute, the Index benchmarks confidence among the governance community and is a forward-looking indicator of market movements and corporate strategies.

About Corporate Board Member

Corporate Board Member, a division of Chief Executive Group, has been the market leader in board education for 20 years. The quarterly publication provides public company board members, CEOs, general counsel and corporate secretaries decision-making tools to address the wide range of corporate governance, risk oversight and shareholder engagement issues facing their boards. Corporate Board Member further extends its thought leadership through online resources, webinars, timely research, conferences and peer-driven roundtables. The company maintains the most comprehensive database of directors and officers of publicly traded companies listed with NYSE, NYSE Amex and Nasdaq.

About the Diligent Institute

Diligent Institute informs, educates, and connects leaders to champion modern governance. We provide original, cutting-edge research on the most pressing issues in corporate governance; certifications and educational programs that equip leaders with the knowledge and credentials needed to guide their organizations through existential challenges; networks that convene directors and corporate executives to share best practices and insights; and awards and recognition programs that celebrate the accomplishments of those who champion modern governance. Learn more at diligentinstitute.com.


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