Daily News: March 8, 2012

CFOs: Capital Spending to Increase; Employment to Accelerate

The most recent Duke University/CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook Survey noted that optimism among U.S. and Asian chief financial officers jumped this quarter and the hiring outlook is strong for 2012. European CFOs also say 2012 will be an improvement over a difficult 2011.

These are some of the findings of the most recent quarterly survey, which asked 873 CFOs from a broad range of global public and private companies about their expectations for the economy.

The U.S. CFO Optimism Index, in which CFOs rate their confidence in the economy on a scale of 0 to 100, increased from 53 last quarter to 59 this quarter, equaling the index’s long-term average.

“This rebound is encouraging because increases in CFO optimism have historically preceded improvements in the overall economy,” said John Graham, a professor of finance at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and director of the survey. “Optimism also rebounded in Europe and Asia, suggesting that 2012 should be a better year than 2011. Still, European optimism lags behind the rest of the world.”

The following summary of findings was excerpted from the report:

  • U.S. finance chiefs said they plan to increase capital spending by slightly more than 7% and expect to boost tech spending by 6% over the next year. Capital spending growth will be especially strong in the energy and manufacturing sectors.

  • U.S. CFOs said they plan to expand their workforces by slightly more than 2% on average over the next 12 months, a staffing increase that would bring the unemployment rate below 8%. Sixty-eight percent of U.S. CFOs say they are actively trying to fill vacant job positions, and many firms are recruiting more aggressively to fill the slots.

  • Nearly 40% of U.S. CFOs say their firms will be active in mergers and acquisitions this year.

    To read the full Duke/CFO Magazine news release, click here.