Wall Street Journal (11/19/12) Sudeep Reddy; Scott Thurm
A review by the Wall Street Journal of securities filings and conference calls finds that half of the nation’s 40 biggest publicly traded corporate spenders have announced plans to curtail capital expenditures this year or next, signaling more trouble for the economic recovery. Nationwide, business investment in equipment and software—a measure of economic vitality in the corporate sector—stalled in the third quarter for the first time since early 2009. Meanwhile, exports are slowing or falling to such critical markets as China and the euro zone as the global economy downshifts.
Corporate executives say they are slowing or delaying big projects amid easing demand and rising uncertainty. Uncertainty around the U.S. elections and federal budget policies also appear among the factors driving the investment pullback since midyear. Companies fear that a failure to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff will tip the economy back into recession by weakening consumer spending, damaging investor confidence, and cutting into corporate profits. A deal to avert the cliff could include tax-code changes, such as revamping tax breaks or rates, that hurt specific sectors. However, some observers say that if the White House and Congress strike a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, the economy could get a boost.