Global business confidence plummeted in October, reaching its lowest point for five years.
Markit's Global Business Outlook index for last month shows that both manufacturers and service providers expect activity to weaken, that hiring and investment plans have reached a post-financial crisis low and that businesses expect prices to deteriorate further.
While the number of companies expecting an uptick in activity in one year's time still outstipped the number expecting a decline by some 28%, this is a big drop on the 39% margin in the summer.
"Clouds are gathering over the global economic outlook, presenting the darkest picture seen since the global financial crisis. Companies' hiring and investment intentions have both fallen to post-crisis lows alongside the bleakest outlook for future business activity seen over the past five years," said Markit's Chief Economist Chris Williamson.
The slide in business optimism and confidence in the US leaves it at its lowest point since 2009, showing that growth there is likely to have peaked in the summer and is likely to taper off in coming months.
The eurozone looks likely to continue its stagnation, with France the only country in the survey where companies are expecting to cut staffing levels over the next year. Confidence is also low in the region's largest economy, Germany.
Meanwhile, the situation in the eurozone is having a drag on confidence in the UK, which is heavily reliant on EU demand for its exports. Despite this, companies in the UK are more optimistic than in any other major economy, with Markit suggesting it will outperform its peers next year.
In Japan, companies are becoming "disillusioned with the potential for 'Abenomics' to boost growth", while the relatively poor performance across the major emerging market economies looks set to continue.
"Across the four 'BRIC' emerging markets, business optimism has sunk to the lowest seen since the financial crisis. Russia is the biggest concern, with sanctions, a spiralling currency and uncertainty driving business expectations down sharply to a new low. A slight upturn in business expectations in China provides some hope that companies there are at least not expecting a hard landing," Williamson said.
Global Business Outlook Survey is conducted three times per year and gathers the thoughts of 11,000 companies on future business conditions.