New ACCA and IMA Survey: Global economic confidence at an all-time low, falling for third consecutive quarter in Q4 2018

Taylor Fenske
Stern Strategy Group
(on behalf of IMA)
(908) 325-3866

Jeff Simmons
Anat Gerstein, Inc.
(on behalf of ACCA US)
(917) 673-0024

New York and Montvale, N.J., January 17, 2019The latest Global Economic Conditions Survey (GECS) from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) released today has revealed global economic confidence declined for the third consecutive quarter in Q4 2018 and is now at an all-time low.

GECS is the largest regular economic survey of accountants around the world, in terms of both the number of respondents and the range of economic variables it monitors. You can read the full report here. The survey found:

  • There are signs of growth beginning to weaken in the world’s three biggest economies: the U.S., China, and the Eurozone, but the global orders balance was little changed in Q4 and remains consistent with reasonable overall expansion in the global economy in the first half of 2019.
  • All of the key regions recorded a negative confidence score—there were more people pessimistic about the outlook than optimistic—with the lowest score being recorded in Western Europe and the Caribbean.
  • The most confident—or rather least pessimistic—part of the global economy was again South Asia, followed by Africa and North America.
  • In a reflection of the less upbeat outlook, 47% of survey respondents globally are considering laying off staff, with just 18% considering taking on new workers. Meanwhile, 39% of respondents are considering scaling back investment in new capital projects, compared with just 16% who are looking to increase investment in new projects.

“Confidence in the U.S. fell back again in the final quarter of the year and is now at an all-time low,” said Warner Johnston, Head of ACCA USA. “There are signs that domestic demand is starting to slow, owing to a combination of higher interest rates and the waning impact of the recent fiscal stimulus.”

Higher mortgage interest rates are cooling house building activity for example. But the jobs market remains extremely buoyant which will underpin robust consumer spending in coming months. Despite falling in Q4 the GECS orders balance for the U.S. is still consistent with annualised Gross Domestic Producer (GDP) growth of around 2.5% in the first half of 2019. Recession this year is extremely unlikely.   

Raef Lawson, Ph.D., CMA, CSCA, CPA, IMA vice president of research and policy, said, “The waning impact of last year’s fiscal stimulus in the U.S., combined with higher interest rates, will moderate growth this year – after near 3% expansion in 2018. The slowdown should be relatively gradual, however, with GDP growth in the region of 2.5% this year. There is no sign yet of a softening in the extremely buoyant labor market. So while the Federal Reserve may limit further interest rate increases this year, an easing of monetary policy is highly unlikely. But there are concerns further out with a risk of below-trend growth in 2020 that would trigger easier monetary policy. “

Trade tensions remain a downside risk, notwithstanding the truce and current negotiations with China. Even at maximum level U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports will have a modest direct effect on the U.S. economy. But on top of this there is the indirect effect of greater uncertainty created by trade tensions and this has been at least one factor in recent stock market volatility.

Except for government spending, all the major sub-components fell, including a sharp drop in capital expenditure and a slight decline in employment, reflecting the health of the country’s jobs market.

Fieldwork for the Q4 2018 GECS took place between November 23, 2018 and December 7, 2018 and attracted 3,773 responses from ACCA and IMA members around the world, including 302 CFOs.


About ACCA

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants, offering 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.

ACCA supports its 208,000 members and 503,000 students in 179 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. ACCA works through a network of 104 offices and centers and more than 7,300 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through its public interest remit, ACCA promotes appropriate regulation of accounting and conducts relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.

ACCA is currently introducing major innovations to its flagship qualification to ensure its members and future members continue to be the most valued, up to date and sought-after accountancy professionals globally.

Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. More information is


About IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants)

IMA®, named 2017 and 2018 Professional Body of the Year by The Accountant/International Accounting Bulletin, 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 100,000 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/India. For more information about IMA, please visit