BANK OF AMERICA
Mid-Year Update Includes Highest Score for Economy in Five Years, With More Than Half of CFOs Expecting Growth in 2013
U.S. financial officers gave the economy its highest score in five years and were significantly more confident about economic growth in 2013 in the latest Bank of America Merrill Lynch CFO Outlook survey.
Executives who participated in the 2013 CFO Outlook Mid-Year Update gave the U.S. economy an average score of 58 out of 100, up from 49 in the previous survey conducted in late 2012. CFOs gave the global economy a score of 51, up from 45.
CFOs voiced even stronger optimism about economic growth, with 55 percent expecting expansion in 2013, compared with 39 percent in the previous survey. Only 10 percent said they expect the economy to shrink, down from 24 percent.
This confidence comes as U.S. companies continue to do more business in other countries, with 76 percent of CFOs reporting some type of activity in foreign markets. That is up from 73 percent in the previous survey and 67 percent one year ago, as more companies are buying from, selling to and establishing operations in non-U.S. markets.
“Beyond their brighter view of the economy, CFOs and their companies remain focused on new markets and opportunities for international growth,” said Alastair Borthwick, head of Global Commercial Banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “While expanding into other countries is attractive, doing business globally brings many challenges and often requires a wide range of financial solutions. More than ever, U.S. companies are seeking help with accessing capital, managing risk, maximizing cash and increasing efficiency as they grow their businesses.”
Kraton Performance Polymers is a leading global producer of engineered polymers, with more than 800 customers in more than 60 countries. Based in Houston, Kraton Performance Polymers recently closed an aggregate $250 million of revolving credit facilities, with $150 million in the U.S. and $100 million outside the U.S.
“With manufacturing plants in five countries and a diverse group of customers around the globe, our company needs to have access to capital in multiple markets,” said Stephen E. Tremblay, vice president and chief financial officer at Kraton Performance Polymers. “Considering that high level of international activity, we value being able to increase our financial flexibility while lowering our cost of capital.”
When asked in the CFO Outlook about potential impacts on the U.S. economy this year, executives overwhelmingly named health care costs, with 72 percent ranking it as a significant concern, up from 62 percent in the previous survey and 51 percent one year ago. The cost of health care also was the top financial concern for CFOs’ own companies, with 70 percent ranking it a significant concern, up from 58 percent and 51 percent; no other responses in the latest report were above 50 percent. The survey responses were taken before the recent announcement that the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be delayed until 2015.
Other notable findings in the 2013 CFO Outlook Mid-Year Update:
For the past 15 years, Bank of America Merrill Lynch has regularly surveyed financial officers at U.S. companies to better understand how they view the economy. The 2013 CFO Outlook Mid-Year Update was conducted by Granite Research Consulting, which interviewed 250 CFOs, finance directors and other executives selected randomly from U.S. companies with annual revenues between $25 million and $2 billion. Interviews were conducted from late April to late May 2013. The margin of error is +/-6 percent. The full report will be available in August.
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