Companies in North America are ready to let go of cash reserves and start investing in growth and acquisitions, according to a survey released on Wednesday by major consultancy Deloitte LLP.
Optimism among chief financial officers (CFO), who hold the key to corporate purse strings, rose to a 15-month high, the survey said. Nearly two-thirds of surveyed executives felt positive about the direction of North American economies.
These executives say that corporate cash will be directed at growth, with fewer than 20 percent saying cash will be held as insurance against a volatile business environment. Sixty percent of CFOs polled plan to invest in growth, with 50 percent planning to acquire other companies.
“There’s a shift away from defensiveness,” said Sanford Cockrell, a Deloitte managing partner, in a statement. “… They are approaching growth in the same measured and incremental way they have cut costs over the last several years.”
CFOs also expect the highest dividend payments since late 2010.
Still, threats to corporate investment cited by executives were numerous, with sales and earning expectations remaining subdued. Companies cited government fiscal policy, increased tax compliance efforts, and environmental regulations as key obstacles to growth.
“We may be at a transition point – where some companies are beginning to believe conditions are substantially improving, while others are not yet convinced,” said Greg Dickinson, a Deloitte director who oversaw the survey.
Earlier on Wednesday, the U.S. commerce department revised quarterly gross domestic product figures downward, from 2.4 percent to 1.8 percent.
The survey polled 105 CFOs, from companies with collective annual revenues of more than $680 billion.