CFOs’ optimism on the rise


By Neil Amato

US CFOs are more optimistic than their counterparts in Italy and France, but there are signs of progress in both North America and Europe, according to a new survey.

CFOs in the United States report increased optimism about their own businesses and the global economy and, to a lesser extent, about their domestic economy.

CFOs in Italy and France were only slightly more confident in their own businesses in the first quarter of 2013, according to the quarterly CFO Outlook survey by FEI and Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business.

US CFOs project net earnings and revenue to rise nearly 10% in the next 12 months, and they also expect substantial gains in capital spending (17%) and technology spending (11%). European CFOs are forecasting smaller gains, with revenue projected to grow 4% and net earnings 3% in the next 12 months.

Seventy-one per cent of US CFOs predict that a recovery in Europe, saddled for years by a debt crisis, will take place but not for at least a year; 65% of Italian and French CFOs feel the same way.

Most CFOs have not been asked to shed workers in the past year – 83% in the US and 70% in Europe. More hiring is projected in the US, where 63% say they plan to hire in the next 12 months, compared with 42% in Italy and France.

The survey’s CFO Optimism Index showed an improvement in the attitudes of US CFOs about the domestic economy. The index rose from 51.6 in the previous quarter to 56.7, and the global index amongst US CFOs rose from 44.2 to 52.2. Although optimism for their own organisations had dropped to 62.7 in November 2012, it rebounded somewhat, to 69.5, amongst US CFOs surveyed in late January and early February.

In Europe, CFOs’ optimism rose slightly from the previous quarter, from 55.7 to 57.5 for their own businesses and from 45.2 to 51.3 for the global economy.

The survey used the responses of 232 CFOs, including 143 in the United States, between January 25th and February 12th.

Related CGMA Magazine content:

"US Economic Optimism Still Neutral, but Rising": US economic optimism is on the rise, but that rise has brought it only into the neutral category, according to the latest AICPA Business & Industry Economic Outlook Survey. CPA decision-makers feel good about their businesses’ potential for growth, as each component of a nine-factor index rose compared with the fourth quarter of 2012.

US Companies May Be Ready to Deploy Cash, Survey Shows”: Corporate treasurers who plan to reduce cash holdings in the first quarter of 2013 outnumber those who plan to increase such reserves, according to a survey by the Association for Financial Professionals. That could signal a shift out of a period in which companies have been holding on to cash.

Neil Amato (namato@aicpa.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.

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