Monday, December 12, 2011

BofA survey: CFOs less optimistic about economy

Financial executives across the country remain worried about the economy, though many expect their companies to hire in 2012, according to a new report from Bank of America Corp.

The latest Bank of America Merrill Lynch CFO Outlook survey, released today, found just 38 percent of executives surveyed expect the U.S. economy to grow in 2012, down from 56 percent last year.

The 600 executives surveyed this fall, who represent a wide range of U.S. companies, rated the current economy a 44 out of 100. That's down from 47 last year and tied for the lowest score in the survey's 14-year history.

CFOs said they were strongly concerned about a number of factors, including the effectiveness of government leaders, the U.S. budget deficit, health care costs and unemployment, the survey found.

"The optimism took a little bit of a tumble since our last survey," Laura Whitley, head of Global Commercial Banking at Charlotte-based Bank of America, said in a conference call presentation this morning. "CFOs clearly remain concerned about the economy."

Yet just 7 percent of executives surveyed predict layoffs at their firms next year, while nearly half said they expected to hire new employees, the report found. More than half, 56 percent, expect their company's revenues to grow next year, too, though that's down from 64 percent last year.

"Despite the cautious economic outlook, CFOs are not hiding out in the bunkers," Whitley said. "Businesses are still moving forward, but at a reduced speed."