CFOs are more confident that the global economy is improving than they were a year ago according to a quarterly CNBC Global CFO council poll, with 63% saying that the economy is improving, 8% that it is in decline, and 29% that it’s currently stable. CFOs were most optimistic about the Asia-Pacific, with 88% saying the economy there is improving and the rest calling it stable, and least optimistic on the Americas where 47% said the economy is improving and 18% that it’s deteriorating.
“A year ago, there was greater uncertainty over monetary policy and the US fiscal cliff, quantitative easing was coming to an end and growth was starting to weaken in emerging markets,” says Tom McGrath of Ernst & Young.
CFOs most bearish on Russia, Eastern Europe
The pessimism CFOs expressed about the Americas reflects concerns that Latin American economies might deteriorate, because the US and Canada rated on their own got the most bullish responses of any region: 47% say the economy is improving, 50% say that it’s stable, and the rest were unsure. Western Europe had more bulls (53%), but 8% of respondents were bearish on a European recovery while 37% said Western Europe is stable.
CFOs were most bearish on Eastern Europe and Russia, where ‘increasing tensions between Russia and the West’ was cited as one of the biggest external risks facing businesses. The worst case scenario is hard to even gauge, but continued tensions alone can disruptive as sanctions become more severe and politics plays a more prominent role in business decisions.
Weak consumer demand, Chinese growth, tensions with Russia top external risks
Exposure to emerging markets was the biggest risk that CFOs expect to face globally, followed by weaker consumer demand, weak growth in China, tensions between Russia and the West, and unemployment though the ordering moves around when you break down responses by region. In EMEA tensions with Russia jumps to second place behind EM exposure and euro zone deflation shows up as the third biggest risk. Similarly, slower Chinese growth is the biggest concern facing CFOs in Asia-Pacific as it probably should be. Weak consumer demand jumps to number one in the Americas, followed by the threat of a cyberattack on corporate infrastructure.
One of the few constants that held across all regions was capex: CFOs everywhere in the world expect to invest more in IT than in any other area.