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Business Confidence Falls Again as Real Economy Takes a Hit, ACCA and IMA Global Survey Finds

December 03, 2012

Marc Gerrone
(201) 474-1502

Andrew Healy
Water & Wall Group
(212) 699-3671

U.S. Confidence Drops; Small- and Mid-Sized Businesses Worst Hit


New York and Montvale, N.J., December 3, 2012 – Confidence in the global economy fell in Q3 2012 according to a worldwide survey of 2,550 finance professionals, with some 67 percent of respondents saying the global economy is stagnating or reversing. So reveal the findings of the 15th quarterly Global Economic Conditions Survey (GECS), undertaken in partnership by ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and IMA® (the Institute of Management Accountants).


Further analysis suggests that this latest fall in confidence is due almost entirely to changing business fundamentals – such as demand, access to finance, prompt payment and inflation –  as opposed to respondents’ sentiment. Globally, the downturn is firmly focused on the real economy with small- and medium-sized enterprises being the worst hit.


In the U.S.A, confidence fell in the third quarter, and small- and medium- sized enterprises appear to have been worst hit. The Northeast and South of the U.S.A. have been the least confident regions for the past two quarters, and, after controlling for sample influences, it is clear that little has changed in Q3 2012. Overall, about 21 percent of U.S. respondents reported confidence gains, while 36 percent reported losses. Among the major GECS markets, only Canadians were more confident.


Thirty-four percent of respondents in the U.S.A. were relatively upbeat about the state of the global economic recovery, believing it to be on the right track, yet the majority, 61 percent, noted it was stagnating or deteriorating.


Judging from respondents’ perceptions, the U.S.A. is running some of the least sustainable fiscal policies in the world, with spending already well above the level finance professionals considered appropriate, and likely to rise further.


Some respondents felt that efforts to address the two major fiscal challenges, debt sustainability and the Fiscal Cliff, were put on hold prior to the Presidential elections, adding to the uncertainty caused by economic conditions and the elections themselves.


Implementation of the Affordable Care Act (which the Supreme Court upheld earlier this year) was cited by some respondents as having increased costs for some businesses, although others are thriving on the increased demand for software and consultancy services created by the new rules.


Despite falling natural gas prices (assisted by continued investment in alternatives such as shale gas), some businesses have continued to report increasing energy prices.


Finally, with the Fed in September outlining plans to engage in QE indefinitely, some respondents expressed concerns about the artificially low cost of credit.


The survey highlighted continued uncertainty across the Asia-Pacific region, which is still feeling the effects of China’s economic downturn. China was not the source of this pessimism, but rather its neighboring countries, who are suffering not only from the Chinese decline, but the persistently sluggish recovery of Western economies.


One theme that emerges clearly from the survey is the interconnectedness of the global economy.


Raef Lawson, Ph.D., CMA, CPA, IMA Vice President of Research, commented: “The slowdown in Asia; the Eurozone debt crisis; and the sluggish U.S. recovery all are feeding into each other and no region is unaffected. In fact, the degree to which movements in the GECS indices are synchronized between regions is uncanny. But looking at the U.S., there appear to be some significant signs of recovery.  Many respondents reported increased housing starts in their regions, and there was also consensus that the auto industry is recovering. That said, it’s worth noting how sensitive the U.S. is to ‘spill overs’ from economic conditions elsewhere – falling demand in both Europe and the Far East and rising prices in the latter.”


Survey editor Manos Schizas, Senior Economic Analyst with ACCA and report author said: “This quarter has seen business confidence fall for all the right reasons. Around the world, and with few exceptions, the fundamentals of the business environment are deteriorating, and businesses are once again having the liquidity problems we thought we’d put behind us.”


Mr. Schizas maintains that there are still many reasons to be optimistic, adding: “Europe’s debt crisis showed signs of being contained in the third quarter, at least for the time being, and finance for investment is being unlocked in many parts of the world.”


The full report is available at http://www.imanet.org/PDFs/Public/Research/GECSR_Q32012.pdf


About ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants)

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants with 154,000 members and 432,000 students in 170 countries worldwide. We aim to offer business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.  We work through a network of over 80 offices and centres and more than 8,400 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. www.accaglobal.com


About IMA (Institute of Management Accountants)

IMA, the association of accountants and financial professionals in business, is one of the largest and most respected associations focused exclusively on advancing the management accounting profession. Globally, IMA supports the profession through research, the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) program, continuing education, networking, and advocacy of the highest ethical business practices. IMA has a global network of more than 65,000 members in 120 countries and 200 local chapter communities. IMA provides localized services through its offices in Montvale, N.J., USA; Zurich, Switzerland; Dubai, UAE; and Beijing, China. For more information about IMA, please visit http://www.imanet.org.

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