Finance execs' optimism highest since 2007

Posted March 9, 2011 10:23 a.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2011 11:54 a.m. EST

— Financial executives at U.S. firms are growing increasingly optimistic about the economy, and they expec “robust growth” in earnings and capital spending, according to a new survey from Duke University and CFO Magazine.

The optimism of the chief financial officers is at its highest since early 2007 before the global recession struck.

The CFOs project an 18 percent growth in earnings with dividends climbing 14 percent. That spike in dividends is the biggest in the 15-year history of the survey.

Capital spending is expected to increase 12 percent.

Despite the positive views, however, the executives say the increasing in hiring is likely to be slow. Jobs are forecast to increase 1.2 percent.

A survey from Manpower on Tuesday reported that a net 8 percent of US firms nationally were planning to increase hiring this spring. In the Triangle, however, hiring is expected to be flat. 

Another concern for CFOs is inflation.

In some job categories, the executives said talent is in strong demand.

Skilled workers most needed are: engineering, product development, information technology, finance and announcing.

The overall findings in the survey are encouraging, said John Graham, the director of the survey who is a professor of finance at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.

“Increasing optimism is good news for the U.S. economy going forward,”Graham said. “Historically, we have found that increases in optimism lead to stronger GDP growth, spending and employment within a year.”

The survey, which is based on data gathered through March 3, included 854 chief financial officers from both private and public companies.

For more details from the survey, read here.