The chief financial officers of North America’s largest companies are generally more optimistic about the economy but still fear possible stagnation ahead, according to Deloitte’s latest quarterly survey of North American CFOs.

More than 90% of the 106 CFOs surveyed say that public policy uncertainty over the debt ceiling and government spending cuts is having at least some impact on hiring and other company plans. Tax policy is especially worrisome for many CFOs, with some 75% claiming at least some impact on their companies’ plans and 40% indicating substantial or strong impacts.

U.S. CFOs expressed particularly strong concerns about the effects of the government’s taxing and spending policies on consumer demand and the broader economy. As a result, about 40% are initiating or ramping up lobbying and other public-policy advocacy efforts.

Despite their concerns, CFO growth expectations rebounded in the first quarter of 2013. CFO expectations for year-over-year earnings growth rose to 12.1% from 10.9% last quarter, and their outlook for capital spending jumped to 7.8% from last quarter’s 4.2% survey low. Expectations for sales and domestic hiring, however, remained stable, with 27% expecting cuts in domestic hiring, according to the findings.

“Every year we’ve done the survey, we’ve seen optimism peak in the first quarter only to decline considerably in the following quarters,” Sanford Cockrell III, national managing partner of Deloitte’s CFO Program, said in a statement. “For 2013 to be different, CFOs need some clarification on the public policy front and enough economic consistency and momentum to feel comfortable investing in growth.”

The survey polled 106 CFOs representing North American companies with collective annual revenues of more than $680 billion. It was conducted from Feb. 11 – 25, 2013.

READ MORE: Tax Hikes, Spending Cuts Will Hobble, Not Kill Economic Growth


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