US CFOs plan spending boost: Survey

Confidence in the U.S. economy among chief financial officers has moved up sharply in the span of just a few weeks. Twenty-five percent of U.S.-based CFOs believe the U.S. economy is strongly improving, up from only 5 percent of CFOs who felt that way in the fourth quarter, according to the latest CNBC Global CFO Council survey. Eighty percent of CFOs expect to see modest to significant increases in their earnings growth in the first quarter.

The sharp rise in economic confidence is a counterpoint to the headline uncertainty driven by cyberattacks, weakened consumer demand and terrorism. Overall, 90 percent of CFOs think the U.S. economy is improving, up from 72 percent in the previous quarterly survey. Another 10 percent of CFO Council members described the economy as having stabilized, versus 24 percent of CFOs who described the economy as stable in the fourth quarter. Additionally, no CFOs feel that the U.S. economy is declining, versus 5 percent who felt that way in the last quarter of 2014.

The CFO Council confidence spike also translates into a much rosier view of U.S. GDP than global GDP. More than 70 percent of CFOs expect U.S. GDP to improve over the next month, where 10 percent expect African, Middle Eastern and Russia GDP to plummet, and another 55 percent expect the same for Russia.

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The CFO Council represents some of the largest public and private companies in the world and collectively manages more than $2 trillion in market capitalization across a wide variety of sectors.

Still, there was a rise in CFO confidence about the overall global outlook. Five percent of CFOs surveyed feel that the global economy is strongly improving—no CFOs felt that way during the final three quarterly surveys of 2014. Forty-five percent of respondents were confident that the global economy had stabilized, and only 25 percent feel that the global economy is in a modest decline, compared with 43 percent who felt this way during the fourth quarter 2014.

Top CFOs feel that consumer discretionary spending and technology will be the fastest-growing sectors, but they also fear that weakening consumer demand and the increased prevalence of cyberattacks persist as primary external risk factors.

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Forty-five percent of CFOs plan to invest the largest percent of their capital into IT and new facilities in the months to come. Ninety percent have already audited their current IT infrastructure for cyber threats, and the same percentage has increased the size of their IT departments, including initiation of new IT safety protocols.

CNBC Global CFO Council survey complete results below: