( dpa ) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was one Wednesday due to give the opening address at the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in the Swiss city of Davos, where the state of the US economy is set to dominate proceedings.
Even as the international markets rallied in response to the US central bank slashing its benchmark interest rate by 0.75 percentage points, the sudden slump was still sending shock waves round the globe.
Up to 2,500 politicians, business leaders and heads of international organizations are expected to attend the five-day WEF meeting in the eastern Swiss mountain resort.
Among those signed up are 13 heads of central banks and most of the trade ministers of the world's richest and emerging industrial nations, and heads of the world's wealthiest companies. No delegates had cancelled so far according to WEF insiders.
As markets went into a tailspin around the world Tuesday fuelling speculation about the scale of a US slump, a survey of leading CEOs revealed fears of a global recession emerging as the major perceived threat to growth for the first time in 11 years, pushing aside more usual fears concerning access to labour and regulation.
According to the survey's authors PricewaterhouseCoopers business confidence was down for the first time since 2003, with the most marked fall in North America compared with last year (35 per cent down from 55 per cent) and Western Europe (44 per cent down by 8 per cent.)
In contrast CEO confidence in the surging economies of Asia Pacific, Latin America and Central and eastern Europe increased, rising to about 55 per cent, but was especially strong in China (73 per cent) and India (90 per cent.)
Samuel A DiPiazza, Global CEO of PricewaterhouseCoopers said: "What you see is a tale of two worlds, you see the developed markets with significant drops in optimism both short term and into the three-year outlook versus the developing worlds; India, China, Russia and other parts of the world that are seeing a very different landscape."
The survey was carried out in the last quarter of 2007 when the collapse in the US subprime mortgage market was just beginning to impact, but DiPiazza said the feeling from most US CEOs subsequently indicated was that any recession would be short-lived.
He agreed there may well be less optimism now than a few weeks ago but said: "Our economists happen to think the US market is clearly slowing but is not yet into a recession."
The debates at Davos in the coming days are set to fully test that prognosis.