Business confidence booms, hiring returns: Global CFO Council survey

Global CFO survey reveals upbeat outlook

Five years after the global financial crisis, chief financial officers from around the globe see economic growth improving over the next six months and are looking to expand their companies' workforce, according to a new survey.

CNBC asked 33 chief financial officers (CFO) from Europe and Asia who make up the CNBC CFO council what their assessment was of global economic growth.

The overwhelming majority of respondents—65 percent—see the global economy modestly improving over the next six months, with 4 percent seeing it "strongly improving" over the same period. When asked to rank the health of certain business conditions, most CFOs said stock market valuations were "modestly high" and 48 percent said credit availability was high.

(Read More: CNBC expands the Global CFO Council)

The survey - conducted between October 21 and 23 - includes CFOs from companies such as Unilever and Lenovo. It also showed that employment figures could be about to get a boost. Over half of respondents said that they were looking to hire new workers over the next six months, compared with just 4 percent saying they planned to lay off staff, and 40 percent predicting no change.

The results are in line with optimistic calls from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In October, the international body held its growth estimate for developed countries — including the euro area, the U.S., U.K., Japan and Canada — at 1.2 percent in 2013 and 2.0 percent in 2014.

However, the BRIC countries — the acronym coined in 2001 for the then-fast-growing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China — suffered some of the largest growth downgrades by the IMF. It cut its 2013 outlook for each of Russia, India and China, and its 2014 forecast for all four BRIC nations. It now expects global growth of 2.9 percent this year, a cut of 0.3 percentage points from July's estimate, and attributed the cut to weakness in emerging economies.

(Read More: IMF cuts growth forecast for emerging world)

CNBC's CFO Council survey reflected these concerns over emerging markets. Over 80 percent of respondents had fears over slowing growth to some degree. Just 9 percent indicated that they were unconcerned. When asked about macroeconomic issues, emerging market slowdown and China's slowing growth received a significant degree of concerned responses.

(Read More: Global CFO Council: DC policy not affecting us)

China's economy grew 7.8 percent (year-on-year), according to official data on October 18, its fastest pace this year, but signs already point to the pickup being short lived with an unexpected fall in exports in September, weak factory output and retail sales figures suggesting gross domestic product might see a dip again in the fourth quarter.

Aside from fears of slowing growth, another macroeconomic issue that CFOs feared was the threat of cyber attacks. Out of ten possible fears for companies, cyber attacks received the greatest amount of "highly worried" responses.'s Matt Clinch. Follow him on Twitter