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Cautious optimism is the global mood

Dubai: For the fifth consecutive quarter, optimism among UK CFOs rose and is now running close to a three-year high.

In Belgium, where CFO optimism is the highest in three years, only 17 per cent of CFOs now expect a recession in the next two years (down from 33 per cent last quarter). And even in Spain, where negative economic news has been routine, the percentage of CFOs who are optimistic (40 per cent) is the largest since the launch of the survey.

That optimism is spilling over to many CFOs’ expectations. In Switzerland, for example, more CFOs expect margins to increase rather than decrease for the first time since 2011. Some 58 per cent of Austria’s CFOs expect increased revenue in the next quarter. And 85 per cent of Southern Africa’s CFOs believe that 2014 will bring about company performance improvement.

The trend is not universal, of course. In North America, CFOs are not allowing their still-positive outlook to translate into increased expectations. In fact, sales growth expectations fell to just 5 per cent and earnings growth hit a new low of 8 per cent. There are a few outliers in Europe, too: in Norway, net optimism fell into negative territory (-3 per cent) compared with six months ago.

Another survey showed CFOs in the US aren’t finding much to cheer about. Sixty per cent of CFOs surveyed by Chicago-based accounting firm Grant Thornton said they believe the state of the US economy will remain the same or worsen during the next six months. The new survey reflects the insights of more than 1,600 CFOs.

US CFOs see silver lining in growing employment opportunities in the new Grant Thornton survey. When asked about employment opportunities in the next six months, 43 per cent said their company’s headcount would increase or significantly increase. In addition, more than two-thirds of CFOs (68 per cent) expect the average cost of an employee’s salary to increase during the next 12 months.