Grant Thornton LLP: CFOs see stability in US economy despite “fiscal cliff” threat

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Mary Jo Garinger

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MILWAUKEE — Nearly 70 percent of chief financial officers of US companies believe the US economy will either improve or remain stable during the next six months, according to the 2012 Fall CFO Survey from Grant Thornton LLP. The survey findings reveal that 39 percent of respondents believe the state of the US economy will remain the same in the first half of 2013, while 30 percent believe it will improve. Of those surveyed, 31 percent said it will worsen, which is an increase of ten percentage points from the firm’s 2012 Summer CFO Survey findings.

That expectation of stability extends throughout the national survey findings, with CFOs predicting that industry financial prospects (42 percent), pricing or fees charged (51 percent), and head count (49 percent) will all remain the same in the next six months.

And though the threat of a “fiscal cliff” looms large, 53 percent of respondents say it would not affect the first six months of 2013 for their companies. Further, 60 percent of respondents do not consider the uncertainty of the “fiscal cliff” resolution an obstacle to making business decisions.

“The turbulent years of the recent past have made businesses more adept at managing through economic uncertainty,” said Jeff Robinson, Wisconsin practice managing partner of Grant Thornton LLP. “It is reassuring to see that CFOs are confident that we will not take any steps backward in our progress.”

Also encouraging, 34 percent of respondents believe industry financial prospects will improve, 35 percent believe pricing or fees charged will increase, and 34 percent say head count will increase.

In addition, according to the survey findings CFOs are committed to keeping several employee benefits the same as last year, including bonuses (55 percent), stock options (69 percent), 401K match (85 percent), and other company-matched retirement contributions (82 percent). On a positive note, 59 percent plan to increase salaries.

“While many companies don’t foresee the economy taking a turn for the worse in the next six months, there is still an absence of improving economic conditions that are needed to propel our country into growth mode,” Robinson added. “Only 34 percent of companies expect their financial prospects to improve in the next six months, which means that reluctance to increase hiring and make capital investments will continue to bog down our economy.”

About the Survey

Grant Thornton LLP conducts its CFO Survey twice a year with CFOs and other senior financial executives across the United States. The fall 2012 survey took place between November 7 and November 30, with 1,582 CFOs and comptrollers participating. The survey has a confidence interval of +/- 2.5% at a 95% confidence level. Questions ranged from the state of the economy to developments in accounting and financial reporting. For more information on the survey, visit http://www.GrantThornton.com/CFOSurvey.

About Grant Thornton LLP

Grant Thornton LLP is the US member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd. Grant Thornton International Ltd and its member firms are not a worldwide partnership, as each member firm is a separate and distinct legal entity. In the US, visit Grant Thornton LLP at http://www.GrantThornton.com.