Chief financial officers are more worried than at any time in the past four years about the U.S. economy and fear the consequences of a housing market downturn, according to the September Duke University/CFO Magazine Business Outlook survey.For the first time in the four years that the survey has measure corporate optimism, there are more CFOs with growing pessimism about the U.S. economy than with growing optimism, Duke reported. Nearly 37% of CFOs were more pessimistic about the economy than they were in the previous quarter, while 28.6% were more optimistic. The chief fears were rising fuel and health care costs. "This is the greatest increase in pessimism that we have seen," said Don Durfee, research editor of CFO magazine. "We've found that this optimism index predicts future economic growth quite well." Regarding housing, more than two-thirds of the CFO respondents said they believe that a housing market correction would harm their firms, and nearly 28% said it would hurt them moderately or greatly, Duke said. The survey can be found online at http://www.cfosurvey.org.

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