“CFO Signals” Report – Excerpts

Recently Deloitte released their “CFO Signals” “High-Level Summary” report for the 3rd Quarter of 2019.

As seen in page 2 of the report, there were 172 survey respondents.  As stated:

“Each quarter (since 2Q10), CFO Signals has tracked the thinking and actions of CFOs representing many of North America’s largest and most influential companies.

All respondents are CFOs from the US, Canada, and Mexico, and the vast majority are from companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue. For a summary of this quarter’s response demographics, please see the sidebars and charts on this page. For other information about participation and methodology, please contact [email protected].”

Here are some of the excerpts that I found notable:

from page 3:


How do you regard the status of the North American, European, and Chinese economies? Perceptions of North America fell to a six-year low, with 68% of CFOs rating current conditions as good (down from 79% last quarter), and 15% expecting better conditions in a year (down from 24%). Perceptions of Europe slid to just 5% and 2%; China sits at 20% and 11%. Page 6.

What is your perception of the capital markets? Eighty-seven percent of CFOs say debt financing is attractive (up from 77%). Equity financing attractiveness fell for both public (from 40% to 31%) and private (35% to 34%) company CFOs. Sixty-three percent say US equity markets are overvalued, about even with last quarter. Page 7.


What external/internal risks worry you the most? CFOs express even stronger concerns about the impact of US trade policy on global growth, and rising concerns about Brexit, the broader European economy, and the 2020 US elections. Talent is again the dominant internal concern, and there are rising concerns about data security and the need to adapt and innovate. Page 8.

Compared to three months ago, how do you feel about the financial prospects for your company? The net optimism index declined from last quarter’s +9 to -5 this quarter—the first negative reading in nearly seven years. Twenty-six percent of CFOs express rising optimism (30% last quarter), and 31% express declining optimism (21% last quarter). Page 9.


What is your company’s business focus for the next year? CFOs indicate a bias toward revenue growth over cost reduction (51% vs. 22%), investing cash over returning it (48% vs. 18%), current offerings over new ones (44% vs. 35%), and current geographies over new ones (62% vs. 22%). Page 10.

How do you expect your key operating metrics to change over the next 12 months? YOY revenue growth expectations rose from 3.8% to 4.3%. Earnings growth slid from 6.1% to 5.6% (a new survey low), while capital spending fell from 7.7% to 3.6%, and hiring fell from 1.9% to 1.6% (both sit at three-year lows). Dividend growth rose from 3.7% to 3.9%. Page 11.

from page 9:


Optimism regarding own-companies’ prospects

Own-company optimism turned negative for the first time in nearly seven years. Canada is highest at just +10, with the US and Mexico overwhelmingly negative at -4 and -50, respectively.

Net optimism peaked in 1Q18 at +54, then declined sharply through the rest of the year. It rebounded somewhat in the first part of 2019, but remained among the lowest levels from the prior three years.

Last quarter, it retreated to just +9, and this quarter it slid sharply to -5, the first negative reading since the fourth quarter of 2012. Twenty-six percent of CFOs expressed rising optimism (down from 30%), while 31% cited declining optimism (up from 21%).

Net optimism for the US declined sharply from last quarter’s +15 to just -4, the lowest level in nearly seven years. Canada rose from last quarter’s -25 to +10. Mexico declined from last quarter’s dismal -43 to -50, the second lowest level in the last two years.

Healthcare/Pharma, Manufacturing, Financial Services, and Services were all overwhelmingly pessimistic (-36, -31, -12, and -7, respectively). Technology was again most optimistic at +53; Retail/Wholesale and Energy/Resources were only mildly positive.

Please see the full report for industry-specific charts. Note that industry sample sizes vary and that results are volatile for the smallest. Due to a small sample size, T/M/E was not used as a comparison point.

from page 11:


Growth in key metrics, year-over-year

Earnings expectations slid to a new survey low, and capital spending and hiring declined to three-year lows; Manufacturing led most declines, but Retail/Wholesale and Technology were relative bright spots.

Revenue growth rose from 3.8% to 4.3%, but sits at its second-lowest level since 4Q16. The US rose, but is near its two-year low. Canada rose to just above its two-year average. Mexico rose, but remains below its two-year average. Technology leads; Manufacturing and Healthcare/Pharma trail.

Earnings growth declined from 6.1% to 5.6%, the lowest level in survey history. The US fell to a survey low. Canada rose to well above its two-year average. Mexico dipped to a four-year low. Technology and Retail/Wholesale lead; Manufacturing and Healthcare/Pharma trail.

Capital spending growth fell from 7.7% to just 3.6%, tying the three-year low. The US slid to a two-year low. Canada rose, but remains below its two-year average. Mexico slid to a six-year low. Financial Services, Healthcare/Pharma, and Retail/Wholesale are highest; Energy/Resources and Manufacturing are lowest.

Domestic personnel growth slid from 1.9% to 1.6%, the lowest level since 3Q16. The US fell to its lowest level in nearly three years. Canada slid to well below its two-year average. Mexico rose to just above its two-year average. Technology and Retail/Wholesale lead; Energy/Resources trails.

Dividend growth rose from 3.7% to 3.9%, but remains well below the two-year average.

Please see the full report for industry-specific charts. Note that industry sample sizes vary and that results are volatile for the smallest. Due to a small sample size, T/M/E was not used as a comparison point.

Among the various charts and graphics in the report are graphics depicting trends in “Own Company Optimism” on page 9 and “Economic Optimism” found on page 6.


RevSD, LLC offers the above commentary for informational purposes only, and does not necessarily agree with the views expressed by these outside parties.


RevSD, LLC (revsd.com) is a management consulting firm and strategic advisory that focuses on the analysis of current and future weak(ening) economic conditions, and offers businesses and other entities advice, strategies, and actionable methods on how to optimally adapt to such challenging, complex conditions.