FindingMar 27, 2020

US Firms Foresee Huge Sales Hit from Coronavirus

Coronavirus developments cut expected sales revenue by more than 6% in 2020.
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Survey of Business Uncertainty (March 9 - 20, 2020)

While the effect of the COVID-19 virus on financial markets has been apparent for weeks—US equities fell 30% from February 21 to March 20—we are still months away from realizing the full economic effect. However, the recent Survey of Business Uncertainty (SBU)[1] portends a sharp drop in business activity in 2020. Moreover, business pessimism grew from March 9 to March 20, while the survey was in the field.

When asked directly about the impact of coronavirus developments in mid March, firms see a 6.5 percent negative hit to their sales revenues in 2020. Comparing what firms say about their overall sales outlook in March to what they said in February yields a very similar drop in expected sales revenue. Further, firms’ uncertainty about their own sales growth over the next year rose 44 percent from February to March.

[1]In partnership with Steven Davis of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Nicholas Bloom of Stanford University, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has created the Atlanta Fed/Chicago Booth/Stanford Survey of Business Uncertainty (SBU). This innovative panel survey measures the one-year-ahead expectations and uncertainties that firms have about their own employment, capital investment, and sales. The sample covers all regions of the U.S. economy, every industry sector except agriculture and government, and a broad range of firm sizes.

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