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CFOs, Treasurers Say Business Optimism at Pre-recession High – AFP Survey

Many fear political bickering in Washington, teetering economies in Europe, Asia.

WASHINGTON, DC – December 9, 2014 – More than half of corporate treasurers and CFOs believe business conditions will improve in 2015, the largest percentage predicting improvement since 2005, according to a survey of 856 executives released today by the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP), a global professional society.

The AFP Business Outlook Survey, which has tracked business predictions of CFOs, corporate treasurers and other financial executives for the last 11 years, found that 44 percent of finance executives expect the U.S. economy to grow between 2.0 and 2.9 percent, while 31 percent are even more optimistic and expect it to grow between 3.0 and 3.9 percent.

Finance executives expect growth to occur in the second half of 2015, creating another 1.9 million nonfarm jobs. Among those surveyed, 49 percent say their companies anticipate hiring workers in 2015.

EXPECTATIONS FOR 2015:

  • The U.S. economy will grow by a median of 2.7 percent, slightly faster than 2014.
  • Nonfarm employment will expand by 1.9 million jobs, with 49 percent of companies adding workers in the U.S.
  • Among companies with workers outside the U.S., 43 percent expect to add non-U.S. jobs.
  • Consumer prices will rise by 1.6 percent, staying below the Federal Reserve’s two percent inflation target rate.
  • U.S. dollar will continue to appreciate against other major currencies.

"AFP members accurately predicted this year’s economic growth,” said Jim Kaitz, AFP's president and CEO. “We have been tracking cash accumulation, which slowed this year as companies began to invest in the future. Now the big news is that almost half of companies plan to expand payrolls in 2015.”

Nevertheless, finance executives see potential threats to economic growth, namely rising healthcare costs (51 percent), political gridlock in Washington (41 percent) and increased business competition (35 percent). They also see potential for increased corporate borrowing costs, with a median expected increase of 27 basis points in 2015. A full 40 percent of respondents expect their borrowing costs to rise by 100 basis points or more in the next two years.

ECONOMIC FEARS OUTSIDE U.S.
Finance executives also see threats arising from the economic slowdowns in Europe (28 percent), China (22 percent), and Asia outside of China (17 percent). From a foreign exchange standpoint, finance executives see a mixed impact from the expected strength of the U.S. dollar, with 20 percent saying they expect the dollar to have a detrimental impact on earnings and 24 percent anticipating a positive impact.

ABOUT THE SURVEY
In early December, AFP surveyed its corporate membership, generating 856 responses. AFP members come from a broad range of companies of many sizes and across all industries. With the responsibility of funding their organization, they are uniquely positioned to consider how business conditions will affect their organization’s near-term and intermediate-term strategies and how conditions may affect corporate borrowing and business investments. The full report is available at www.AFPonline.org/outlook.


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