FREE SUBSCRIPTION Includes: The Advisor Daily eBlast + Exclusive Content + Professional Network Membership: JOIN NOW LOGIN
Skip Navigation LinksHome / News / Read News


Deloitte: CFO Optimism Hits 15 Month High, Desire to Invest Rising

June 27, 2013, 07:10 AM
Filed Under: Economic Commentary
Related: CFO, CFO Survey, Deloitte

According to Deloitte’s Q2 CFO Signals™ survey, optimism regarding their companies’ prospects is at a level not seen for 15 months among Chief Financial Officers (CFOs). That optimism is translating into a bias toward investment over cash conservation and dividend forecasts that have risen to an almost three-year high. Still, year-over-year sales and earnings growth expectations remain below their long-term averages, suggesting near-term growth will remain elusive.

The quarterly survey, which tracks the thinking and actions of CFOs representing North American companies with collective annual revenues of more than $680 billion, found that net optimism (the difference between the percentages of CFOs expressing rising and falling optimism) rose from +32 last quarter to +46 this quarter. While optimism has historically climbed in the first quarter each year, this marks the first time that increased optimism has carried into the second quarter since CFO Signals began in 2010. The primary driver seems to be CFOs’ perception of the North American economies: more CFOs rate the region’s health as good than as bad, and nearly two-thirds are optimistic about the trajectory of the economies. Moreover, 74 percent list the strength of the economies as one of their company’s top growth drivers – a rise from 60 percent in the first quarter.

In addition, CFOs say their companies’ cash will be deployed mostly toward funding growth. Less than 20 percent of CFOs say a top cash use for 2013 will be as a hedge against business volatility, but nearly 60 percent say they will use it to invest in organic growth opportunities and around 50 percent will invest to acquire other companies.

“There is a definite shift in CFOs’ sentiment this quarter, despite some of their growth expectations remaining below the long-term averages,” said Sanford Cockrell III, national managing partner, CFO Program, Deloitte LLP. “There’s a shift away from defensiveness, but CFOs’ tempered near-term expectations suggest they are approaching growth in the same measured and incremental way they have cut costs over the last several years.”

That muted outlook is apparent in CFOs’ expectations for sales, earnings, and other key metrics, which remain little changed from the first quarter, and below the long-term average. While mean sales growth expectations increased slightly from 5.4* percent to 5.7* percent this quarter, earnings expectations fell from 12.1* percent to 10.3* percent. Driven by improvements in Canada and Mexico, domestic employment growth expectations increased to 2.4* percent from 0.9* percent in the first quarter, but the expectation for the U.S. is just 1.3 percent*. Capital spending growth expectations also fell slightly to 7.5* percent and are significantly down from 11.4* percent 12 months ago.

Financing- and capital-related uses of cash will also be prevalent for the next year, with 62 percent of CFOs citing paying down debt, buying back stock, or paying dividends as top cash uses. In particular, CFOs’ expectations for dividend payments are at a level not seen since the third quarter of 2010, having risen from 3.6* percent in the first quarter to 4.5* percent this quarter.

“One of the most striking aspects of this quarter’s findings is the high variability of CFOs’ year-over-year growth expectations – especially when it comes to sales and domestic hiring,” noted Greg Dickinson, director, North American CFO Signals Survey, Deloitte LLP. “This pattern suggests we may be at a transition point – where some companies are beginning to believe conditions are substantially improving, while others are not yet convinced.”

*All numbers with an asterisk are averages that have been adjusted to eliminate the effects of stark outliers.

To download a copy of the survey, click here.

The Deloitte CFO Signals survey was conducted for the second quarter of 2013 between May 13, 2013 and May 24, 2013. Eighty percent of the 105 CFO respondents were from companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenues, and 70 percent were from publicly-traded companies. Each quarter, CFO Signals tracks the thinking and actions of CFOs representing many of North America’s largest and most influential companies. This report summarizes CFOs’ opinions in five areas: business environment, company priorities, company expectations, finance priorities, and CFOs’ personal priorities.

Comments From Our Members

You must be an Equipment Finance Advisor member to post comments. Login or Join Now.