CFOs at large companies are much more pessimistic than they were just three months ago.
According to yet another new survey of chief financial officer sentiment, just 47 percent said they are more optimistic about their company's prospects and 36 percent are less optimistic. Last quarter, nearly two-thirds said they were more optimistic and only 17 percent were less optimistic.
What's more, just one-quarter said they are now more optimistic about their industries versus more than 50 percent last quarter and 35 percent are more pessimistic versus 13 percent last quarter.
Keep in mind that the survey of 77 CFOs-- More than 70 percent are from companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue and 75 percent are from public companies--by Deloitte LLP was conducted during the two weeks ending on August 31. Since then, the stock market has been surging amid a mixed bag of economic news, the elections took place and the Federal Reserve unveiled its long anticipated Quantitative Easing II plan, which was initially well received by Wall Street.
CFOs in the manufacturing sector appear to be the most pessimistic this quarter-a sharp turn from the prior period when it was the sector with the most improved optimism. These days, only 30 percent of CFOs are more optimistic and 60 percent are less optimistic, according to Deloitte.
In any case, Deloitte points out that more than 85 percent of CFOs' pessimism is currently due to external factors, such as the economy, industry and market trends. These are the kinds of issues they have little or no control over, which can be especially frustrating to this group.
The survey though found that roughly 45 percent of CFOs name top risks that revolve around the specter of stagnant or deteriorating economic conditions and the threat of a double-dip recession. More than a quarter of CFOs name worries about government policy, regulation, and legislation that could harm their industries and companies.
Despite all of this pessimism, CFOs do not expect another recession. In fact, they expect year-over-year sales growth of 11 percent, on average, with earnings increasing nearly 20 percent. However, median earnings, which are less skewed by a handful of respondents, are expected to grow by just 10 percent.
"While these numbers are fairly optimistic even when adjusted for volatility, it is important to note that many companies still have a long way to go before returning to their pre-recession trends," Deloitte warns. "Perhaps we are seeing the early stages of a bifurcation of the business environment, where large, healthy companies with superior capital access and costs will have a substantial competitive advantage over those who do not."