Finance professionals overwhelmingly believe that clear action must be taken on deficit reduction to accelerate economic growth this year, and more than half think that tax increases shouldn't be taken off the table to achieve a deficit reduction agreement, says a survey by the Association for Financial Professionals.
The 2012 AFP Business Outlook Survey, released last December, found that financial professionals believe the U.S. economy will continue to strengthen modestly this year, with a median expected growth rate of gross domestic product of 1.9 percent. Two-thirds reject the need for additional fiscal stimulus. While the largest percentage of financial professionals since December 2006 is anticipating that their organizations will add staff to their payrolls this year, they are expecting a relatively modest net gain in payrolls of only 1.1 million for the entire U.S. economy.
Financial professionals continue to point to uneven consumer demand, business investment, and demand for U.S. goods and services overseas as important factors affecting economic growth and job creation in 2012. They also believe these key factors will influence business conditions this year: managing health care costs (76 percent); federal budget deficit (71 percent); uncertainty surrounding tax policy (71 percent); sovereign debt crisis in Europe (71 percent); weak housing demand (70 percent); and success of efforts to reduce long-term budget deficits (70 percent).
"CFOs and treasurers are sending a clear message: Enough!" says Jim Kaitz, AFP's president and CEO. "These are practical people. They recognize that the political theater must stop in order to achieve a resolution of the debt crisis."
Internationally, as noted in the key factors mentioned above, financial professionals are concerned about the ongoing sovereign debt crisis in Europe. Just over half of financial professionals indicate that their organization has been affected financially by that crisis, with 35 percent of organizations experienced a detrimental impact and 18 percent a beneficial impact. Nearly half of those surveyed expect dissolution of the euro within the next three years.
Financial professionals are responsible for ensuring that their companies have enough cash on hand to fund operations, so they are qualified to observe business conditions and make assumptions about how those conditions may change over the short and immediate term. Based on their assumptions, they must make critical business decisions, including those concerning corporate borrowing and business investments.
From last Nov. 29 through Dec. 7, the AFP surveyed U.S. financial professionals about current and expected business conditions, the seventh year it has done so. The survey generated 741 responses from corporate practitioners holding a variety of positions, including CFO, vice president of finance, treasurer, and assistant treasurer, employed across a wide range of industries. The typical respondent is employed by an organization with annual revenues of $1.5 billion. Forty-eight percent of respondents work for a publicly traded organization. Survey results produce a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.4 percent.
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