Daily News: January 17, 2012

Deloitte: European Debt Crisis Hinders CFO Expectations

Continued fallout from the sovereign debt crisis in the euro-zone, persistent unemployment, increasing social unrest and governments’ efforts to find effective solutions cast a long shadow over CFOs’ expectations in Q4/11, according to the most recent Deloitte CFO Signals survey..

The Deloitte quarterly survey, which tracks the thinking and actions of chief financial officers representing many of North America’s largest and most influential companies, shows only 27% of CFOs say they are more optimistic this quarter (compared to 29% last quarter and 60% back in the first quarter of 2011), and 38% say they are less optimistic. Economic uncertainty was the most worrisome risk for almost all surveyed CFOs.

“CFOs are worried about the spillover effect from the European situation into global consumer and capital markets,” said Sanford Cockrell III, national managing partner, CFO Program, Deloitte. “They appear to believe that the longer we continue without effective solutions, the more likely and more pronounced the collateral effects will be on other established and emerging economies around the globe.”

In response, CFOs are striking a cautious tone toward their growth and hiring plans for the coming year. Specifically, CFOs are tempering their expectations for year-over-year revenue growth (6.3% this quarter versus 6.8% last quarter) and their projections for domestic hiring (1.0% from 1.2% last quarter). On the bright side, CFOs have raised their projections for year-over-year capital spending (9.6% this quarter compared to 7.9% last quarter) and their outlook on earnings growth (10.1% versus 9.3% last quarter).

“Just 30% of CFOs expect their home economies to be in better shape a year from now and only about 10% expect conditions to be markedly better three years from now,” explained Greg Dickinson, who leads the Deloitte CFO Signals survey. “The silver lining may be that, although CFOs have been steadily trimming their expectations since the first quarter of 2011, many of their earnings and investment projections are still positive year-over-year.”

To download a copy of the survey click here.