Deloitte CFO Signals™ Survey
87 percent of US CFOs say future performance of their companies somewhat depends on election outcome; more than two-thirds say better clarity on corporate tax policy would improve planning
Seventy-four percent of U.S. CFOs consider themselves Republicans, while 8 percent self-identify as Democrats, half the level in 2012; the percentage self-identifying as Independents came in at 19 percent, nearly twice that of the percentage in Q4 2012.
Seventy-one percent of CFOs say U.S. equity markets are overvalued–a new survey high.
CFOs’ expectations for growth in domestic hiring double to 2.3 percent* this quarter, and their expectations for growth in capital spending rise to 5.6 percent*, but expectations for growth in revenue and earnings remain among survey lows.
New York, October 3, 2016—Deloitte’s third quarter (Q3 2016) CFO Signals™ survey reveals 87 percent of U.S. chief financial officers believe the future performance of their company depends at least somewhat on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, with 17 percent citing “strong” or “significant” dependence. Dependency is broad-based, with more than 75 percent of CFOs in all surveyed industries expecting at least some dependence. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of all surveyed CFOs say corporate tax policy is a top-three priority for postelection policy clarity, with monetary/rate policy next at 37 percent.
In addition, while the proportion of U.S. CFOs who consider themselves Republicans mirrors levels from the fourth quarter of 2012–the last time the survey asked about CFOs’ political affiliations–the proportion identifying themselves as Democrats fell, from 16 percent in Q4 2012 to just 8 percent this quarter. The percentage of U.S. CFOs who identify as “Independent or other” nearly doubled from 10 percent in Q4 2012 to 19 percent in the most recent survey.
This quarter’s findings suggest all eyes are on the U.S. elections, with the vast majority of CFOs expecting the outcome to impact their company’s future performance. Despite CFOs’ expectations for revenue and earnings growth remaining below their two-year averages, many CFOs appear to be investing back in their companies through capital spending and hiring.
said Sanford Cockrell III, national managing partner of the U.S. CFO Program, Deloitte LLP.
Four business outlook metrics tracked by the CFO Signals survey for 26 consecutive quarters—CFO expectations for growth in revenue, earnings, capital spending and domestic hiring—reflect mixed sentiment. While year-over-year revenue growth expectations rose to 4.2 percent* from last quarter’s 4.0 percent*, this indicator is still among the lowest in the survey’s history. Earnings growth expectations fell to 6.1 percent*, barely above the survey low of 6.0 percent* recorded in the first quarter of 2016, and significantly lower than last quarter’s 7.7 percent*. On the other hand, expectations for growth in capital spending rose slightly to 5.6 percent* this quarter from 5.4 percent* last quarter, well above the low of 1.7 percent* in Q1 2016. Similarly, domestic hiring growth expectations of 2.3 percent* doubled from last quarter’s reading of 1.1 percent*.
This quarter, 71 percent of CFOs say they regard U.S. equity markets as overvalued – a new survey high–and up substantially from last quarter’s 56 percent. Only 4 percent of CFOs say markets are undervalued, a new survey low.
"The sharp drop in CFO sentiment that occurred when equity markets got pummeled at the start of 2016 may indicate that CFOs’ optimism is somewhat fragile. It might suggest CFOs are wary of potential events that could trigger a rapid decline in global business conditions,” said Greg Dickinson, managing director, Deloitte LLP, who leads the North American CFO Signals survey. “CFOs’ concerns this quarter appear amplified by increasing worries about the impacts of U.S. elections, as well as concerns about the rise of anti-capitalist and anti-globalization sentiment around the world.”
Each quarter, CFOs are also asked which risks they regard as most worrisome. The top three external risks CFOs cited this quarter were global growth/recession, new/burdensome regulation, and election/political uncertainty in the U.S. Like last quarter, securing qualified talent and retaining key employees were the top internal risks cited this quarter, along with execution strategies and plans.
“What CFOs report about their companies’ exposure to the effects of Brexit are in line with what we are seeing from other reports–a minimal direct impact for many U.S. companies, with the more significant exposure and risk limited to companies that have U.K. facilities or significant exports to the U.K. and E.U.,” says Dr. Patricia Buckley, managing director, economic policy and analysis, Deloitte Services LP. “A slowdown in growth of these markets could potentially pose an issue for these companies down the line.”
When asked how much macroeconomic factors are affecting their businesses, CFOs cited low interest rates and a strong U.S. dollar as having a significant impact on their business planning. Seventy percent of CFOs say slow growth in Europe is affecting their planning, and 65 percent cite slow growth in China, while 57 percent cite the U.S. presidential election and the U.K.’s Brexit vote. Although 65 percent of CFOs claim significant business exposure to the U.K., and 42 percent say they sell into the U.K. from North America and/or the rest of the E.U., surprisingly very few plan significant business changes as a result of the Brexit vote.
Additional findings from the Deloitte Q3 2016 CFO Signals survey included:
- Assessments restrained for North American economy, worse for Europe and better for China. Forty-six percent of CFOs describe the North American economy as good or very good, up from last quarter’s 40 percent, but well below the 55 percent in the Q4 2015. Thirty-seven percent believe conditions will improve a year from now, down from 39 percent last quarter and well below the 47 percent from three quarters ago. Perceptions of Europe’s current state slid further, with just 4 percent of CFOs describing it as good, down from 6 percent the last quarter; only 10 percent of CFOs see improvement, down from 15 percent last quarter, and again well below the 30 percent levels of a year ago. Ten percent of CFOs regard China’s economy as good, up from 9 percent last quarter, and 14 percent are expecting improvement a year from now, up from 10 percent in the last quarter.
- Attractiveness of debt and equity financing continue to rise. Eighty-nine percent of CFOs say debt is currently an attractive financing option, up from 80 percent last quarter, and 42 percent of CFOs say equity financing is attractive, up from 30 percent last quarter.
- Companies are making substantial investments in advanced technologies. Cloud platforms have been implemented by nearly 80 percent of companies represented by the CFOs surveyed. Regarding which types of data the advanced technologies are being applied to, customer analytics leads, with nearly half of CFOs citing past investments and 60 percent expecting future investments. For additional results, click here.
Deloitte’s third quarter 2016 CFO Signal’s survey also provides CFOs’ responses on business focus priorities, growth expectations for dividends and investment, the top purposes for analytics investments, current use of digital technologies, and more. To download a copy of the survey, please visit: www.deloitte.com/us/cfosignals2016Q3.
About The Deloitte CFO Signals™ Survey
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 third quarter of 2016 was conducted during the two-week period ending Aug. 19, 2016. One hundred twenty-two CFOs responded during this time. Seventy-three percent of respondents are from public companies, and 80 percent are from companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue. For more information, please see the “About the survey” section of this report.
For more information about Deloitte’s CFO Signals, or to inquire about participating in the survey, please contact NACFOSurvey@deloitte.com.
About Deloitte’s CFO Program
The CFO Program brings together a multidisciplinary team of Deloitte leaders and subject matter specialists to help CFOs stay ahead in the face of growing challenges and demands. The program harnesses our organization’s broad capabilities to deliver forward thinking and fresh insights for every stage of a CFO’s career—helping CFOs manage the complexities of their roles, tackle their organization’s most compelling challenges, and adapt to strategic shifts in the market. For more information about Deloitte’s CFO Program, please contact email@example.com or visit www.deloitte.com/us/thecfoprogram.
*All numbers with an asterisk are averages that have been adjusted to eliminate the effects of stark outliers.
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