Deloitte-uk-corporate-caution

Today we are launching our quarterly “UK corporate environment” chart book, which is available here: https://blogs.deloitte.co.uk/mondaybriefing/
2019/07/uk-corporate-environment.html
. The report aims to provide a graphical summary of the key trends and themes shaping the UK corporate sector, setting the context to the CFO survey. We will be developing and refining the chart book and welcome your feedback. Do feel free to use any of the charts in your own presentations and drop my colleague Tom Simmons a line at tsimmons@deloitte.co.uk with ideas and comments.

Today’s Briefing summarises the findings of the latest Deloitte Survey of Chief Financial Officers which was released overnight. The full report is available at:
https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/finance/articles/deloitte-cfo-survey.html

The survey examined sentiment among the UK’s largest businesses in the second half of June. This coincided with the campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party and growing concerns over global trade and growth.

A more challenging environment is weighing on the corporate sector with risk appetite among UK CFOs falling to the lowest level since the failure of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Just 4% of CFOs say now is a good time to take risk onto their balance sheet with 96% disagreeing.

Brexit is the top concern for CFOs, with geopolitical worries and trade fears in second and third position on the worry list. CFOs are now more pessimistic about the long-term impact of Brexit than at any time in the last three years, with a record 83% believing that it will lead to a deterioration in the economic environment in the long term. Events in the last three years have clearly added to, rather than reduced, worries about the impact of Brexit.

UK unemployment hit a 45-year low in May while growth in average earnings has gathered pace over the last year. So, as well as contending with slower revenue growth, corporates also face mounting wage pressures. Almost half of CFOs say that recruitment difficulties have risen, up from less than a third 18 months ago.

The hesitant mood captured by the CFO Survey is in marked contrast to the buoyant spirits recently on display in financial markets. Hints from the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank of easier monetary policy to come have boosted equities. Ironically, risk appetite in the corporate sector has slumped just as it has taken off in the equity market.

Equity valuations imply that investors believe that central banks will save the day. The downbeat mood of UK CFOs, one that is also on view in the German Ifo and the US ISM surveys, suggests business is less sanguine.