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Global Survey: U.S. Leads the Way in Economic Confidence

The latest Global Economic Conditions Survey (GECS) from IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) and ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) found that the global economic recovery that started in late 2016 is starting to lose momentum, although North America remained the most confident region in the world. You can read the full report here.

North America remained the most confident region in the world in the second quarter of 2018, with official data showing that the massive tax cut at the start of the year is leading to higher consumption; Africa was the second-most confident region, sharing an optimistic outlook with America. Both regions are where the number of people expecting conditions to improve exceeded those who expected conditions to worsen.

Globally, the slight fall in economic confidence reflects increasing fears of a trade war between the United States and China, which continues to effect global outlook, with China’s economic sentiment falling sharply, the GECS notes.

Raef Lawson, Ph.D., CMA, CSCA, CPA, CFA, IMA vice president of research and policy, said, “Our second quarter analysis mirrors other data that the global economic recovery has slowed since the start of the year. However, confidence is still high by past standards, and a sharp slowdown in economic growth is unlikely in the months ahead. The differences between regions and countries shows marked differences, with concerns about the China-U.S. trade war intensifying –these are uncertain times, and Q3’s results will be heavily impacted by the decisions made in the White House about tariffs.”

In the U.S., confidence was broadly unchanged in Q2 and is high by past standards, with the proportion of respondents feeling more confident about the future exceeding – by nine percentage points – those who feel less confident. That confidence is consistent with the latest hard data, which show that after a difficult Q1 the economy rebounded strongly.

In terms of the GECS sub-components, the biggest change was in government spending, which fell sharply. During the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump promised to push for a big increase in infrastructure spending, but nothing has been achieved yet, the survey notes. In contrast, there were modest increases in the capital spending and employment sub-components – both of which are at relatively high levels.

Looking ahead, ACCA and IMA’s research shows that the outlook for the global economy remains positive, despite signs that economic growth in some key parts of the world’s economy have slowed since growth reached a peak in the second half of 2017. The report concludes that while the global economy is likely to remain pretty strong over the next year, a modest slowdown looks likely.

Fieldwork for the Q2 2018 GECS took place between June 1 and 14, 2018, and attracted 1,002 responses from ACCA and IMA members around the world, including more than 80 CFOs.

For more information on the global economic conditions surveys, visit IMA's website.