Despite rising concerns about political and policy uncertainty, CFOs’ remain highly optimistic regarding economic growth and their companies’ prospects. Year-over-year expectations for revenue, earnings, capital spending, and domestic hiring are all above their two-year averages.
Growing concerns about political and policy uncertainty, but optimism remains
When CFOs responded to last quarter’s survey, the new US Administration had just taken over and had issued several executive orders supporting key campaign promises. Meanwhile, the new Congress had begun to set its legislative agenda, and the global economy had shown continued signs of strength.
This post-election period appeared to have left CFOs very optimistic—with the 1Q17 survey registering the sharpest uptick in sentiment in its seven-year history, and with several key growth metrics showing considerable strength.
Since then, there have been starts, stops, and redirections in some key policy areas, and there have been preliminary movements on income taxes, trade, and foreign policy. And, despite worrisome geopolitical developments in North Korea and Syria, the global economy has continued to strengthen.
Most of this has occurred, however, amid rising political turmoil (around alleged links between Russia and the Trump campaign) that has captured headlines and consumed considerable public and congressional attention. And CFOs do appear to be concerned—with many mentioning US political and policy uncertainty (especially around trade policy and tax reform) among their most worrisome risks.
Still, these developments do not appear to have substantially dampened CFOs’ outlooks for the next year. Their optimism regarding North American growth and their own companies’ prospects did decline somewhat, but overall sentiment is still overwhelmingly positive (driven in part by a resurgence in Energy/Resources). Moreover, expectations for revenue and earnings rose again, and capex and domestic hiring expectations remain very strong.
Not surprisingly, recent survey findings have revealed rising CFO concerns about the scope and pace of change in the global business environment—and especially about their own ability to stay abreast of important developments.
Identifying how CFOs stay informed was a survey theme almost seven years ago, when we asked CFOs about their best sources of macroeconomic insight. This quarter we revisited the topic, asking where they go for information on macroeconomics, geopolitics, policy, financial markets, industry trends, and management trends.
The channels by which CFOs consume daily news (websites, newsletters, TV, and printed dailies, etc.) appear highly varied and show significant differences by age. Device use also varied by age (where older CFOs preferred tablets to phones), but laptops were still the top device overall. And although social media use was indeed highest among younger CFOs, the age-related differences were not particularly strong.
Explore the complete 2017 Q2 CFO Signals survey results to learn more.