Nearly Half of CFOs Expect a Recession in North America by 2023, but More Are Concerned About Inflation: Deloitte CFO Signals™ Survey 3Q 2022


NEW YORK, Aug. 29, 2022 /PRNewswire/ —

Key Takeaways

  • Forty-six percent of surveyed CFOs expect the North American economy to be in a recession by the new year, while 39% expect the North American economy to be in a period of stagflation.
  • CFOs’ concerns over persistent inflation outweighed angst over the possibility of a recession nearly 3 to 1.
  • Just 33% of CFOs rate the current North American economy as good or very good, a marked decline from 52% in the second quarter of 2022.
  • The nearly one-quarter (24%) of CFOs considering U.S. equities as undervalued is the highest this figure has reached since the 1Q16 CFO Signals survey.
  • Domestic hiring growth expectations fell to 2.6% from 5.3% in the second quarter of 2022.

Why it matters to CFOs?

Each quarter, CFO Signals™ tracks the thinking and actions of leading CFOs representing North America’s largest and most influential companies. Since 2010, the survey has provided key insights into the business environment, company priorities and expectations, finance priorities, and CFOs’ personal priorities. Participating CFOs represent diversified, large companies, with 84% of respondents reporting revenue in excess of $1 billion. More than one-quarter are from companies with greater than $10 billion in annual revenue.

Economic outlook

CFOs’ sentiment toward current conditions in all five economic regions covered in the CFO Signals survey fell this quarter. For North America, 33% of CFOs rated the current economy as good or very good, a noticeable decline from 52% in 2Q22. However, 29% of CFOs indicated conditions in North America will improve in a year, up from 18% in the prior quarter. Sentiment was similarly gloomy for the current economies of Europe, China and South America, with just 7% of CFOs viewing conditions as good or very good in each region — all representing a decline from 2Q22. The economy of Asia, excluding China, fared slightly better, with 17% of CFOs considering it as good or very good.  

Own company optimism and risk

The percentage of CFOs expressing more optimism for their companies’ financial prospects declined to 19% from 27% in the prior quarter. This figure is the lowest it has been since the 2Q20 survey. That said, there was a slight uptick in the percentage of CFOs saying now is a good time to be taking greater risks, at 38%, compared to 35% in 2Q22. Inflation and geopolitics stood out most prominently among CFOs’ long list of external risks. Internally, talent, especially retention issues, continued to dominate CFOs’ list of internal worries.

Key operating metrics

For the second consecutive quarter, CFOs lowered their year-over-year growth expectations for revenue, earnings and capital spending. Revenue growth decreased to 6.2% from 7.8%, earnings growth declined to 6.4% from 8.4%, and capital spending growth expectations fell to 4.3% from 11.2%. CFOs also reduced their growth expectations for both domestic wages/salaries and domestic hiring — the first significant decrease since the 2Q20 CFO Signals survey. Domestic wages/salaries growth expectations decreased to 4.8% from 5.3%, and domestic hiring growth fell to 2.6% from 5.3%.  Dividend growth remained flat on a quarter-to-quarter basis, at 4%.

Recession and inflation expectations and planning

Forty-six percent of surveyed CFOs expect the North American economy to be in a recession by the new year. CFOs are taking actions to prepare, including the most-often cited step: reducing or closely managing operating expenses. CFOs are also controlling headcount, limiting hiring, and increasing productivity. Furthermore, several CFOs are evaluating their customers, services and/or products to identify opportunities to help recession-proof their organizations.

Slightly more than one-third of CFOs (39%) noted they expect the North American economy to be in a period of stagflation by 2023. Another 15% expressed a more optimistic outlook, indicating they expect the region’s economy to be growing with low-to-moderate inflation by 2023. Of note, CFOs’ concerns over persistent inflation outweighed angst over the possibility of a recession nearly 3 to 1.

Assessment of capital markets

The proportion of CFOs regarding U.S. equities overvalued in this quarter’s survey fell to 30% from 43% in the prior quarter. Forty-six percent of CFOs indicated U.S. equities were neither overvalued nor undervalued, while 24% viewed them as being undervalued — the lowest percentage since 1Q16. Fewer CFOs this quarter found debt financing as attractive than in 2Q22: Just 16% indicated that debt financing is attractive, a sizable decline from 32% in the prior quarter. Record levels of inflation and fears of a potential recession may have fueled the drop. Meanwhile, the attractiveness of equity financing among CFOs rose slightly, to 26% from 22% in the prior quarter.

Key quotes

“Deloitte’s Q3 CFO Signals survey reveals that CFOs are grappling with the effects of inflation and the prospects of a potential recession. Some organizations are already taking measures to cope with slowing growth, including cuts to hiring, wage growth and capital spending. Nevertheless, sustained inflation remains a more worrying prospect for CFOs than a recession.”

—  Steve Gallucci, national managing partner, U.S. CFO Program, Deloitte LLP, and global leader, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited

Download the findings from the Q3 2022 CFO Signals survey here.

Methodology

Every quarter, Deloitte’s CFO Signals closely follows the thinking and priorities of leading CFOs who represent some of North America’s largest and most impactful organizations. This report summarizes CFOs’ opinions across four key areas: business environment, company expectations and priorities, financial priorities, and personal priorities.

The CFO Signals survey for the third quarter of 2022 was conducted between Aug. 1, 2022, and Aug. 15, 2022. A total of 112 CFOs participated in this quarter’s survey. This survey seeks responses from CFOs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, and the vast majority are from companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue. Participation is open to all industries except public sector entities.

For more information about Deloitte CFO Signals or to inquire about participating in the survey, please contact NACFOSurvey@deloitte.com.

About Deloitte

Deloitte provides industry-leading audit, consulting, tax, and advisory services to many of the world’s most admired brands, including nearly 90% of the Fortune 500® and more than 7,000 private companies. Our people come together for the greater good and work across the industry sectors that drive and shape today’s marketplace—delivering measurable and lasting results that help reinforce public trust in our capital markets, inspire clients to see challenges as opportunities to transform and thrive, and help lead the way toward a stronger economy and a healthier society. Deloitte is proud to be part of the largest global professional services network serving our clients in the markets that are most important to them. Building on more than 175 years of service, our network of member firms spans more than 150 countries and territories. Learn how Deloitte’s more than 345,000 people worldwide connect for impact at www.deloitte.com.

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) does not provide services to clients. In the United States, Deloitte refers to one or more of the US member firms of DTTL, their related entities that operate using the “Deloitte” name in the United States and their respective affiliates. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting. Please see www.deloitte.com/about to learn more about our global network of member firms.

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