The rough start to 2016 for the global economy and the stock market is sparking a number of concerns among the country's CFOs, said Sandy Cockrell, global leader of Deloitte's CFO Program.
Optimists outnumber pessimists, according to Deloitte's first quarter CFO Signals Survey, but by the lowest margin in three years. The survey showed 33% of CFOs expressing rising optimism, a number similar to the previous quarter. Nevertheless, 31% of the CFOs surveyed now cite declining optimism, the highest level since the fourth quarter of 2012.
"CFOs voiced growing concern about the toll economic and equity market volatility will take on liquidity and on consumers' willingness to spend," said Cockrell.
Sales, earnings, capital spending and domestic hiring growth expectations were also markedly lower, according to Cockrell. Revenue growth expectations fell from 5.9% to 3.3%, only slightly above the previous survey low from the second quarter of 2015. Earnings growth expectations fell from 8.3% to a new survey low of 6.0%.
Capital spending expectations fell drastically from 4.9% to just 1.7%, eclipsing the previous survey low of 4.2% by a wide margin. Domestic hiring growth expectations declined sharply to just 0.6%, far off last quarter's 1.2% and matching the survey low.
Meanwhile, 41% of CFOs describe North American conditions as good, down from 55% last quarter. The survey showed that 9% of CFOs regard China's economy as good, down from 14% last quarter and 5% describe Europe as good, down from 8%.
Regarding the stock market, 30% of CFOs say U.S. markets are overvalued, down sharply from 56% last quarter.
When it comes to politics, almost half of the CFOs surveyed said their companies are politically active, but more in supporting causes than candidates. They also said that trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- a major topic in the presidential campaign -- are expected to have little impact on their decisions.