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Deloitte CFO Signals™ Survey: Optimism Abounds

  • CFO optimism regarding their own companies’ prospects rose to a seven-year survey high
  • Perceptions of North America’s and Europe’s economies hit four-year highs; perceptions of China’s hit a two-year high
  • Capital spending expectations rise to the highest level in nearly five years 
  • Another survey high: 80 percent of CFOs say U.S. equity markets are overvalued

New York, March 29, 2017—Deloitte’s CFO Signals survey for the first quarter (1Q 2017) reveals a markedly improved outlook from North American chief financial officers on both macroeconomic conditions and their own companies’ prospects. Surveyed CFOs’ net optimism spiked to a survey high of +50.0 from last quarter’s +23.4, as nearly 60 percent of CFOs said they were more optimistic about their own companies’ prospects compared to last quarter, while just 10 percent said they were less optimistic.

“The dramatic increase in positive sentiment and outlook among CFOs surveyed is one of the most pronounced in the seven-year history of this survey,” said Sandy Cockrell III, national managing partner of the U.S. CFO Program, Deloitte LLP. “CFOs expressed optimism across a range of measures, from their outlooks on global economies to their expectations for key metrics, such as capital spending and earnings growth. It suggests that CFOs are feeling quite bullish and are prepared to act on that sentiment.”

CFOs’ assessments of global economies are also overwhelmingly positive. Perceptions of North America’s economy hit a four-year high, with 66 percent of CFOs saying conditions are currently good and 62 percent expecting conditions to be better in a year. Regarding Europe, 12 percent of CFOs think conditions are currently good, and 28 percent expect them to be better in a year. Similarly, perceptions on China’s economy continued to improve from survey lows recorded in the first quarter of 2016, with 20 percent of CFOs saying conditions are currently good and 19 percent expecting them to be better in a year.

“The rebound in confidence around the world is in line with the strengthening of economic growth that is evident in many parts of the world,” says Ira Kalish, Deloitte’s chief global economist.

While year-over-year growth expectations for revenue, earnings, capital spending and domestic hiring growth were near their survey lows last quarter, CFOs’ expectations rose significantly this quarter. Revenue growth expectations rose to 4.3 percent, and earnings growth expectations rose to 7.3 percent, both now above their two-year averages. Capital spending growth expectations rose to 10.5 percent, their highest level in nearly five years. Expectations for domestic hiring rose from 1.3 percent to 2.1 percent from last quarter, their highest level in nearly two years.

Buoyed by the positive sentiment, surveyed CFOs’ business focus appears to be on offense versus defense over the next year. Nearly 60 percent of CFOs say they are biased toward revenue growth, while only 18 percent say they are biased toward cost reduction. Similarly, 59 percent of CFOs say they are biased toward investing cash — the highest level in more than three years — while only 15 percent say they are biased toward returning cash to shareholders. CFOs also favor focusing on current geographies over new ones (67 percent versus 13 percent), the widest margin in the history of the survey, and organic growth (58 percent) over inorganic growth (21 percent).

“Collective outlook for CFOs has improved significantly since the last survey, with CFOs voicing high hopes for lower taxes, a more business-friendly regulatory environment and better economic growth,” said Greg Dickinson, managing director, Deloitte LLP, who leads the North American CFO Signals survey. “As legislative priorities and policy details evolve, it will be interesting to see how companies adapt and how their longer-term expectations and plans change.”

Deloitte’s first-quarter 2017 CFO Signal’s survey also provides CFOs’ views on corporate tax and international trade policies as well as detailed findings by industry. To download a copy of the survey, please visit: www.deloitte.com/us/cfosignals2017Q1.

Methodology

Each quarter, CFO Signals tracks the thinking and actions of CFOs representing many of North America’s largest and most influential organizations. This report summarizes CFOs’ opinions in four areas: business environment, company priorities and expectations, finance priorities and CFOs’ personal priorities.

The Deloitte CFO Signals survey for the first quarter of 2017 was conducted during the two-week period opening Feb. 5 and ending Feb. 17, 2017. A total of 132 CFOs responded during this time. Seventy-six percent of respondents are from public companies, and 87 percent are from companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue. For more information, please see the report.

For more information about Deloitte’s CFO Signals, or to inquire about participating in the survey, please contact NACFOSurvey@deloitte.com.

About Deloitte

Deloitte provides industry-leading audit, consulting, tax and advisory services to many of the world’s most admired brands, including 80 percent of the Fortune 500 and more than 6,000 private and middle market companies. Our people work across more than 20 industry sectors to deliver measurable and lasting results that help reinforce public trust in our capital markets, inspire clients to make their most challenging business decisions with confidence, and help lead the way toward a stronger economy and a healthy society. 

Contacts

Grace Pai-Leonard
Public Relations
Deloitte
+1 973 602 5906

Michelle DeZabala
Public Relations
Deloitte
+1 212 436 2492

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