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New ACCA and IMA Report: Global Business Confidence Rebounds in Q1 2017, Largely Driven By Improvement in U.S.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Taylor Fenske
Stern Strategy Group
(on behalf of IMA)
(908) 325-3866
tfenske@sternstrategy.com

Jeff Simmons
Anat Gerstein, Inc.
(on behalf of ACCA USA)
(917) 673-0024
jeff@anatgerstein.com

New York and Montvale, N.J., April 12, 2017The latest Global Economic Conditions Survey (GECS) from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) released today shows economic confidence rebounding in the first quarter of 2017, an improvement driven by the U.S. where investors are hopeful that a combination of fiscal reform, increased investment in infrastructure and deregulation will provide a boost to economic growth.

The report is the largest regular economic survey of accountants around the world, and noted business conference at its highest level since the second quarter of 2015. The report can be viewed here. Though driven by the U.S., the improvement in confidence was widespread, with most countries and regions, including Western Europe, Asia Pacific, and Central and Eastern Europe showing improvements.

The survey of finance professionals and business leaders worldwide noted that Q1 2017 displayed the fastest rate of growth in global trade since 2015. The survey found that the biggest concern for companies over the past three months was increased costs (a problem for 46% of respondents), consistent with rising headline inflation rates in many parts of the developed and developing worlds. Despite this there are significant improvements for employment and investment, with 22% of firms planning to create more jobs and raise capital expenditure (up from 16% and 14% respectively in Q4 2016).

“The rise in confidence, combined with strong economic hard data, offers genuinely encouraging signs for the global economy: with an increasingly optimistic mood in the U.S. and a stimulus-led recovery in China driving prospects for world trade,” said Faye Chua, head of business insights at ACCA. “This strong start to the year has taken place against a backdrop of potential threats facing the world economy at the start of 2017.”

Added Raef Lawson, executive vice president at IMA: “The U.S. economy has maintained an elevated level of confidence from Q4 in 2016, with 37% of firms feeling more confident, although there was no uplift from the previous quarter. An expectation of increased infrastructural spending and tax cuts has contributed to a buoyant business mood even though they are yet to materialise into policy.”

However, Mr. Lawson continued, “Inflation and currency fluctuations, however, are a cause for concern. 43% of U.S. firms are troubled by rising costs, and 22% by exchange rate movements. Despite the Fed’s interest rate hikes, borrowing costs in the developing world remain low, and the dollar is likely to continue growing in value. That could pose a challenge to U.S. firms’ competitiveness, and the White House’s determination to reduce the trade deficit.”

The survey found that in the United States, confidence remained flat but elevated; in Q1 2017, 37% of respondents were more confident about the future, compared with 24% who were less confident. This buoyant overall level of confidence comes on the back of a surging stock market, which has risen to record highs on the back of confidence that a fiscal stimulus and wave of deregulation will provide a boost to economic growth.

U.S. respondents reported confidence that a big increase in government spending is on the way. Other components of the GECS – government spending, capital spending, and employment – also rose in the first quarter. The main concern for U.S. companies is rising costs—cited by 43% of respondents—which is consistent with a recent, sharp rise in inflation and wages as the U.S. economy moves closer to full capacity.

The negative impact of exchange-rate movements (cited by 22% of respondents) was another concern. U.S. interest rates are set to rise this year, but borrowing costs in the rest of the developed world are likely to remain very low, so, the survey noted, it’s possible that the U.S. dollar will appreciate in the coming months; this will erode the competitiveness of U.S.-based companies.

GECS is the largest regular economic survey of accountants around the world. Fieldwork for the Q1 2017 GECS took place between February 24 and March 13, 2017 and attracted 1,334 responses from ACCA and IMA members around the world, including more than 150 CFOs.

About ACCA

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. We aim to offer business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. We support our 188,000 members and 480,000 students in 181 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. We work through a network of 95 offices and centres and more than 7,110 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through our public interest remit, we promote appropriate regulation of accounting and conduct relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence. For more information about ACCA, please visit www.accaglobal.com

About IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants)

IMA®, the association of accountants and financial professionals in business, is one of the largest and most respected associations focused exclusively on advancing the management accounting profession. Globally, IMA supports the profession through research, the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) program, continuing education, networking and advocacy of the highest ethical business practices. IMA has a global network of more than 80,000 members in 140 countries and 300 professional and student chapters. Headquartered in Montvale, N.J., USA, IMA provides localized services through its four global regions: The Americas, Asia/Pacific, Europe, and Middle East/Africa. For more information about IMA, please visit www.imanet.org.


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