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Tariffs, trade tensions concern Fortune 500 execs, Chamber of Commerce finds

Tariffs and trade tensions remain significant concerns for large businesses across the U.S., with about 43% of Fortune 500 companies mentioning these issues during earnings calls in the last few months, a study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce showed.

Of 437 earnings calls made by Fortune 500 companies between Aug. 24 and Nov. 24, 188 included mention of the impact of either tariffs or trade tensions on their businesses. In particular, 30% of Fortune 500 companies discussed the impact of tariffs, while 26% discussed trade tensions.

Retail, transportation and logistics companies were most likely to discuss tariffs, while technology and finance enterprises mentioned trade tensions more often. Nearly half of earnings calls from the manufacturing and industrial sectors discussed both tariff and trade tension impacts.

The study also noted that 40% of construction contractors said their businesses would be affected by steel and aluminum tariffs, while 32% were concerned about the effect of new material and equipment tariffs on their operations.

Companies have dealt with increased tariff-related costs by absorbing the costs themselves, passing them to consumers and negotiating deals with suppliers, the Chamber said.

President Donald Trump said Dec. 13 that his administration will not impose 15% tariffs on $160 billion of Chinese goods slated to go into effect Dec. 15 and that negotiations on a "phase two deal" will begin "immediately." Beijing followed suit by suspending the additional 10% and 5% tariffs on some U.S. imports originally due to take effect Dec. 15, after the two countries agreed to the text of a "phase one" deal to slow their trade war.

The U.S. business group, which has advocated for an end to tit-for-tat tariffs, on Dec. 19 repeated its call for U.S. and Chinese officials to continue working to resolve trade tensions between the countries with the world's two largest economies.

"We urge the administration to keep its eyes on the prize. We call upon both governments to continue working diligently toward a final agreement within six months," U.S. Chamber Executive Vice President Myron Brilliant said.