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U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey finds growing concern about tariffs among Fortune 500 executives

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Since June 1, 43% of Fortune 500 executives raised or addressed concerns over the impact of tariffs and trade policy tensions in earnings calls, according to analysis conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The data add to mounting evidence that tariffs pose a growing concern for American businesses and present a major threat to growth and the longest economic expansion in U.S. history.

Using natural language processing to map patterns in language, the analysis collected data from 422 earnings calls held by companies in the Fortune 500 from June 1-Aug. 24, 2019. The study found that 139 companies, (33%) specifically discussed the impact of tariffs, with total mentions on earnings calls exceeding 650. Similarly, 118 companies (28%) specifically discussed the impact of trade policy tensions, with total mentions on earnings calls exceeding 380.

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Fortune 500 companies produce two-thirds of the U.S. GDP, generating $13.7 trillion in revenue and employing 28.7 million Americans. This means that almost half of the largest U.S. businesses are expressing concern at the wave of tariffs imposed on imports from multiple countries.

Taking a deeper dive into the data, the study found manufacturing and industrial firms mentioned tariffs most frequently, with 64% of calls mentioning tariffs, followed by retailers (58%) and technology firms (43%). The study shows that leaders in industries that are key to American growth and prosperity are becoming more concerned with how they will deal with the impact of tariffs on their workers, partners and customers. In a Chamber study from earlier this year, 47% of Fortune 500 manufacturing and industrial firms, 61% of retail companies, and 30% of tech companies mentioned tariffs in earnings calls.

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