Trade Tensions Push Finance Chiefs' Outlook to Worst in a Year

(Bloomberg) -- As the Trump Administration keeps piling on tariffs, U.S. stock traders are averting their gaze and holding on tight. Corporate finance chiefs are having a more difficult time.

North American chief financial officers’ optimism fell across the board in the third quarter, driven by worry over trade policy and internal risks such as recruiting and maintaining top talent, according to a survey released by Deloitte LLP on Thursday. After hitting an all-time high in the first quarter of this year, a measure of CFOs’ optimism about their own companies’ prospects fell for the second straight period to the lowest in a year.

“CFO optimism, while still strong, appears to be on the retreat amid concerns around global trade and interest rates, combined with the evolving challenge to both identify finance talent and equip teams with the analytical skills they need,” Sandy Cockrell, the Deloitte Global CFO Program leader, wrote in an accompanying report.

Trade Tensions Push Finance Chiefs' Outlook to Worst in a Year

Deloitte collected responses from more than 130 CFOs in North America, most from companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue. The survey was conducted from Aug. 6 to Aug. 17, a period engulfed with discussion of the potential for the U.S. to implement further trade tariffs on China and a lead up to Nafta negotiations. Most respondents work in the financial services and manufacturing industries.

The findings echo a similar tone expressed in the Federal Reserve’s latest beige book, an anecdotal publication about economic conditions gleaned from interviews and questionnaires across the 12 Fed districts. Businesses are generally optimistic about the near-term outlook, though there is concern about trade tensions, particularly among manufacturers, according to the August report.

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