Deloitte “CFO Signals” Report Q4 2017 – Notable Aspects

Recently Deloitte released their “CFO Signals” “High-Level Summary” report for the 4th Quarter of 2017.

As seen in page 2 of the report, there were 147 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 current/future status of the North American, Chinese, and European economies? Perceptions of North America improved markedly with 74% of CFOs rating current conditions as good (up from 64% last quarter), and 56% expecting better conditions in a year (up from 45%). Perceptions of Europe rose to 35% and 33%, respectively, and China rose sharply to 49% and 41% (their highest levels in nearly five years). Page 6.

What is your perception of the capital markets? Eighty-five percent of CFOs say debt financing is attractive (up slightly from 83%). Attractiveness of equity financing decreased for public company CFOs (from 48% to 46%) and rose for private company CFOs (from 35% to 47%). Eighty-four percent of CFOs now say US equities are overvalued—another new survey high. Page 7.


Overall, what risks worry you the most? CFOs say constraints to their companies’ performance are mostly external, voicing strong concerns about political turmoil, policy uncertainty, and geopolitics. Talent challenges, strategy execution, and achieving growth are the top internal worries. Page 8.

Compared to three months ago, how do you feel about the financial prospects for your company? The net optimism index rose sharply from last quarter’s +29 to +47 this quarter. About 52% of CFOs express rising optimism (up from 45%), and 5% express declining optimism (down from 16%). Page 9.


What is your company’s business focus for the next year? CFOs indicate a strong bias toward revenue growth over cost reduction (61% vs. 18%) and investing cash over returning it (56% vs. 18%). They shifted back to a bias toward existing offerings over new ones (45% vs. 35%), and indicated a bias toward current geographies over new ones (65% vs. 11%). Page 10.

Compared to the past 12 months, how do you expect your key operating metrics to change over the next 12 months? Revenue growth expectations declined from last quarter’s 5.7% to 4.7% (still above the two-year average). Earnings growth rose from 7.9% to 8.4% (well above the two-year average). Capital spending growth slid from 7.3% to 6.5%; domestic hiring growth fell from 2.6% to 2.0%. Canadian expectations trailed for almost all metrics. Page 11.

from page 9:


Optimism regarding own-companies’ prospects

Several industries rose sharply, but Healthcare/Pharma declined sharply.

After declining to +29 last quarter, net optimism rose sharply to +47 this quarter. About 52% of CFOs expressed rising optimism (up from 45%), and just 5% cited declining optimism (down from 16%).

Net optimism for the US rose sharply from last quarter’s +28 to +50 this quarter. Canada rose from +31 to +46, while optimism in Mexico declined sharply from +39 to zero.

Sentiment rose sharply in Manufacturing, Technology, Energy/Resources, and

Services—all of which came in above +45. Retail/Wholesale rose, but trailed the average at +29, and Healthcare/Pharma fell sharply to just +8.

Please see the appendix for charts specific to individual industries and countries.

from page 11:


Growth in key metrics, year-over-year

Earnings growth rose on strength in the US.
Revenue, capital spending, and domestic
hiring growth all declined, largely on
pessimism in Canada.

Revenue growth declined from 5.7% to 4.7%,
but remains above its two-year average of 4.4%.
The US declined, but remains near its two-year
highs. Canada declined to well below its two-year
average; Mexico declined, but is still relatively
strong. Healthcare/Pharma and Technology lead;
T/M/E and Services trail.

Earnings growth rose to 8.4% from 7.9%. The
US leads and is well above its two-year average.
Canada declined to well below its two-year
average; Mexico declined, but is still above its
average. Retail/Wholesale, Manufacturing, and
Technology lead; T/M/E and Services trail.

Capital investment growth fell for the third
straight quarter, from 7.3% to 6.5%, but is still
among its five-year highs. The US and Mexico
rose and are well above their two-year averages.
Canada declined to well below its average.
Energy/Resources and Manufacturing are the
highest; T/M/E and Healthcare/Pharma are

Domestic hiring growth slid from 2.6% to
2.0%. The US remains at its highest level in two
years, but Canada slid to its lowest level in a
year, and Mexico slid sharply to its lowest level
in two years. Healthcare/Pharma and Services
lead; Energy/Resources and T/M/E trail. Wage
pressures are again evident in Mexico.

Please see the full report for charts specific to
individual industries and countries.

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.


I post various business and economic surveys because I believe they should be carefully monitored.  However, as those familiar with this site are aware, I do not necessarily agree with many of the consensus estimates and much of the commentary in these surveys.


The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2748.23 as this post is written