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Business Executives See Improved Prospects for Their Own Companies but Report Little Confidence in U.S. Economy Overall, AICPA Survey Finds

U.S. business executives are feeling more optimistic about expansion plans and the outlook for their own companies over the next 12 months, yet still harbor deep concerns about the strength of the U.S. and global economies in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, according to the third-quarter AICPA Economic Outlook Survey. The survey polls chief executive officers, chief financial officers, controllers and other certified public accountants in U.S. companies who hold executive and senior management accounting roles.

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“This has been the worst economic and humanitarian crisis on a global scale in our lives, one that will have a long-lasting impact on almost every aspect of life, from where we live, work and shop to how we travel and vacation”

Only 24 percent of business executives said they held an optimistic view of the U.S. economy over the coming year. That’s a slight increase from 20 percent last quarter, which represented the dimmest outlook for the United States since the fourth quarter of 2011. Optimism about the global economy also rose modestly in the past quarter, from a dismal 11 percent to 17 percent.

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Some 43 percent of survey respondents said their companies plan to expand in the next 12 months, up from 24 percent last quarter. Business executives’ optimism about their own companies’ prospects saw a similar rise from 30 percent to 41 percent, quarter over quarter. For perspective, however, the latter number stood at 61 percent a year ago.

“This has been the worst economic and humanitarian crisis on a global scale in our lives, one that will have a long-lasting impact on almost every aspect of life, from where we live, work and shop to how we travel and vacation,” said Ash Noah, CPA, CGMA, managing director of CGMA learning, education and development for the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. “In the midst of most trends being upended, we’re seeing improvement in a number of categories this quarter but it’s worth remembering we’re digging out of a very deep hole of pessimism. Comparisons are still tracking with the years immediately following the Great Recession. We’re also seeing the usual uncertainty over the outcome of the presidential election, which – given our current state of political polarization — adds to businesses’ sense of unease and volatility.”

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