The global economy is showing stronger signs of improvement in the first quarter of the year, according to a new survey by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and the Institute of Management Accountants.
The ACCA/IMA Global Economic Conditions Survey found that for the second quarter in a row, senior finance professionals are beginning to sense that a recovery is taking hold.
ACCA and IMA polled more than 900 finance professionals around the world and found that while confidence is at its highest level among CFOs since 2011, the recovery is still tentative. On the positive side, the report indicated a global increase in staff investment and signs of growth in employment and new orders. Survey respondents also reported fewer problems with late payments and voiced fewer concerns about suppliers or customers going out of business.
On the other hand, capital spending and capital investment have declined and CFOs of larger companies were more pessimistic than those working in smaller businesses, probably due to the exposure of large, international companies to uneven recovery and economic performance around the world.
The greatest rise in confidence, employment, and investment occurred in Africa, likely a result of the containment of the Ebola outbreak that affected parts of the continent last year.
Confidence has also increased in Europe, with improvements seen in employment and investment, albeit tempered by a drop in both capital expenditure and new orders.
Finance professionals in Asia and South Asia also saw the situation in their countries improve in the first quarter of 2015, although the pace of improvement has slowed slightly.
However, there were also areas that experienced continuing uncertainty. “Confidence in the U.S. grew, but at a slower rate than in Q4 2014,” said ACCA executive director of strategy and development Alan Hatfield in a statement. “Employment, new orders and capital expenditure have fallen back quarter-on-quarter and although they were much higher than two years ago, responses suggested that the U.S. in particular might not be strong enough to warrant a rise in federal interest rates.”
Finance professionals in the Middle East were most concerned about political turmoil and instability in the region. While China continued to perform well on the survey, growth here has slowed, affecting Australia’s economic outlook. Australia’s economy is closely linked to China’s and it is the first to feel any downturn in China, both in terms of its lower exports of iron ore and coal, and in terms of luxury items like wine.
“Confidence is returning to the business sector, but there is a recognition that there is still a way to go before the global economy can be said to have made a full recovery,” said IMA vice president of research and policy Raef Lawson. “Amidst improving confidence it is encouraging to see that businesses are investing in people—the key element to any future success. However, the optimism is tempered by continuing uncertainty. Geopolitical instability in Ukraine and Russia and conflict in areas of the Middle East continue to cast long shadows over the global economy.”
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