Global business confidence reached a 12-month high in the third quarter of the year, according to a new poll by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and the Institute of Management Accountants.
The ACCA and the IMA surveyed more than 1,512 finance professionals and over 150 CFOs across the globe. The poll found that confidence in North America improved during Q3, with only 32 percent of firms indicating they were less confident, down from 36 percent in the second quarter of this year.
For the third consecutive month, business confidence in the U.S. improved and has now reached its highest level since Q2 of 2015. The recent improvement in confidence, along with strong employment growth and increased pricing pressures, may prompt the Federal Reserve to resume raising interest rates. The investment opportunities index declined to its lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2012, a possible sign of uncertainty over the outcome of the November election prompting companies to put their expansion plans on hold.
So far there is little indication that fears over the United Kingdom’s Brexit vote in June to leave the European Union could spread to the global economy. Instead, confidence among U.K. businesses is holding up relatively well compared to the second quarter, although it is still low, with survey respondents who report a decrease in confidence outnumbering those who reported an increase. Protectionist sentiments still seem to be on the rise in many countries, and the November presidential election in the U.S. could have a big impact on whether the improvement in business confidence translates into actual increases in employment and investment.
“Over 51 percent of respondents expected government spending to rise, which has driven global business confidence to the highest point in over a year,” said Faye Chua, head of business insights at ACCA, in a statement. “After years of reduced investments in most Western economies, a combination of falling budget deficits and bond yields is encouraging governments to reach for their wallets. This is good news for business in a continued depressed climate for investment and hiring.”
IMA vice president of research and policy Raef Lawson sees signs of improvement in business confidence in the U.S., China, Brazil and Russia.
“North America is performing strongly in contrast to most other regions, helped by strong employment growth in the U.S. and recovering oil prices fueling a buoyant mood in Canada with respect to construction and investment,” Lawson said a statement. “Meanwhile, confidence in China is at its highest level since 2012, which has had an uplifting effect on many emerging markets. Even Brazil, which has been in deep recession for several years, and Russia are showing tentative signs of improvement.”
Despite improvements in business confidence, many countries have yet to meaningfully increase hiring and investment. Only 19 percent of the business leaders surveyed said their companies are considering hiring new staff, while just 14 percent are looking at opportunities to invest in new technology. In every part of the world, more businesses are planning to reduce staff rather than hire more workers.