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CFO Insights — Special Edition: CFO Signals — 2Q13 survey

Published on: Jun 30, 2013

On the face of things, this quarter seems a lot like the last. Companies are performing relatively well, but they’re still doing it mostly through tight cost management and intense business focus — and not by riding waves of growing customer demand. The most acute risks in Europe and the U.S. still appear averted, but Europe remains dragged down by tight credit and balance sheet repair. Growth in North America and China, while relatively steady, has not been strong enough to markedly bolster domestic hiring or investment. And, CFOs are still wary of the near- and long-term effects of monetary, fiscal, and regulatory policy worldwide.

Despite all these similarities, this quarter feels notably different. CFOs’ responses seem to indicate an air of optimism that has been mostly absent for well over a year. Perhaps the best news is that CFOs mostly see North America’s economies as healthy, and they are particularly bullish about where they will be next year. And, at a company level, more are positive about their own prospects than has been the case since the first quarter of 2012.

Also apparent in this quarter’s findings seems to be the notion that, even though their appetite for risk and growth is increasing, companies’ approaches will be as measured and methodical as those that have helped them preserve earnings over the past several years. Continued reluctance to accelerate longer-term investments and a maintained focus on shoring up key risks both serve as reminders that downside risks are still a strong concern and that flexibility remains a valued asset.

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