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CFO Signals™: 2018 Q4

Tariff and gridlock expectations stoke recession fears

This quarter’s findings show that CFOs’ views are heavily influenced by their perceptions of election outcomes.

CFOs' assessments of the economy in Q4

To help CFOs check their thinking as they plan for the next calendar year, our fourth quarter surveys typically provide a look-ahead on economic growth, government policy, industry performance, and company priorities. This quarter's survey, similar to the one we ran in 2016 Q4, offers additional perspectives shaped by the outcome of a major US election.

Similar to 2016 Q4, this quarter’s findings show that CFOs’ views are heavily influenced by their perceptions of election outcomes. After the 2016 elections, CFOs’ already-positive sentiment carried over to the post-election period. Citing optimism about the prospects for lower taxes, lower health care costs, and less regulation, CFOs were bullish on the North American economy, and US CFOs indicated their highest own-company optimism in two years.

Much has happened since then. Among the more important developments for business: taxes and regulation have been reduced, interest rates and government spending have risen, and trade policy has shifted. Meanwhile, the last two years have seen strong economic growth, soaring stock markets, and record-low unemployment—and strong optimism and expectations among CFOs.

But despite strong economic performance, CFOs have recently begun to voice doubts about future global economic growth—fueled by worries about geopolitics, US political turmoil, and trade policy. This quarter, the proportion of CFOs expecting the North American economy to be better in a year fell to just 28 percent, continuing quarterly declines from a high of 59 percent in 2018 Q1. Assessments of the Chinese and European economies have also declined.

Download the report to read the details or the executive summary to view the highlights.

Business outlook highlights

About Deloitte LLP's CFO Signals™ survey

CFO Signals™ is about CFO issues. This quarterly survey tracks the thinking and actions of leading CFOs—representing North America’s largest and most influential companies—across four predominant areas: business environment, company priorities and expectations, finance priorities, and personal priorities.

Learn more about Deloitte's CFO Signals™ survey.

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