Global CFO Council survey: US economy holding the line

The U.S. economy is maintaining its modest rate of improvement, and current Fed policy is helping to create record highs in the market, according to the latest results of our CNBC GlobalCFOCouncil.

The council—which represents 24 chief financial officers who collectively manage some $2 trillion in market capitalization—presented a picture of overall economic stability and sees signs that the U.S. remains on the right track.

But there was a slight dip in the results. Last time around, in July, 4 percent of the council felt that the economy was showing signs of strong improvement. That is now gone. A small blip, but it could prove important as the last two surveys showed economic optimism picking up steam.

Why the change in perspective? It could be due in part to the fact that the Federal Reserve has indicated it could wind-down its bond-buying program as early as September. That could have affected our CFO Council since they indicated that current Fed action and policy is the cause for the Dow's record levels this summer.

In our last survey, ahead of July's FOMC meeting, 80 percent of the CFO Council agreed that the Fed should maintain current policy.

(Read more: Think you figured out the Fed? Spare us)

Perhaps their view of modest economic optimism has also been due in part to America's "jobless recovery"—that's what 67 percent of respondents chose when asked about the state of American job growth.

If the factors that ultimately weighed on the CFO Council sentiment this time around do not change it does beg the question: Will we see another dip in optimism when we release the results of our next CNBC Global CFO Council survey ahead of third quarter earnings?

Corporate boardroom
Rene Mansi | E+ | Getty Images

Important CNBC Global CFO Council survey results:
—After Fed chairman Ben Bernanke's June press conference and the July FOMC minutes release, the majority of the council felt that there would be no change in the Fed's fiscal stimulus policy in the third quarter of 2013. A majority of council members—almost 86 percent—believe there will be reduced stimulus in the third quarter of 2014.
—In light of recent high-profile examples of activist shareholder activity, nearly 29 percent of the council felt that it was softness in hedge fund and private equity performance creating new entrants and changing the landscape for activist investors.
—On the global economic front, the CFO Council appears to have little faith in the G20's ability to implement proposed rules on taxing multinational corporations. Nearly 40 percent of the council feels it is unlikely that loopholes will be closed and that the Group of Twenty will be able unable to maintain rules for leveling the playing field.

—By CNBC's Anthony Volastro

The complete results of the CNBC Global CFO Council Survey can be found below.

Question 1

What is your perspective on the overall economy today?

Modestly improving 61.9%
Stable 38.1%

Question 2

What best describes your current view of inflation in the United States?

Slightly Increasing 38.1%
Unchanged 61.9%

Question 3

Please describe your firm's level of operations in the following regions over the next 12 months:

Africa 5 6 0 10
Asia ex China 11 4 0 6
China 12 4 0 5
Eastern Europe 8 4 0 9
Latin America ex Brazil 9 6 1 5
Brazil 7 8 0 6
Western Europe 3 12 1 5
U.S.A 11 9 1 0

Question 4

Please describe your current view towards the following U.S. business conditions using the following scale for each: Very Positive, Positive, Stable, Negative, Very Negative:

Answer Options Very Positive Positive Stable Negative
Credit Availability 7 10 4 0
Cost of Debt 9 5 5 2
Employment growth 0 7 13 1
M&A deal flow (in your sector) 0 7 11 3
Overall corporate earnings 0 8 13 0
Overall financial market stability 0 7 14 0
Sector growth 1 6 14 0
Stock market valuation 0 8 13 0
Top line revenue 0 11 9

Question 5

Question 6

Question 7

Question 8

With approximately 60% of U.S. companies reporting thus far, what best describes overall your personal view of U.S. corporate earnings per share (EPS) growth in Q2 2013 compared to Q2 2012?

Slightly stronger than expected 28.6%
As expected 71.4%

Question 9

Question 10

Question 11

Question 12

What best describes your current interpretation of the Fed's intentions to change its fiscal stimulus policies by the end of 2014?

Answer Options End stimulus Reduce stimulus No change from previous quarter Increase stimulus
Q3 2013 0 3 18 0
Q4 2013 0 8 13 0
Q1 2014 0 14 7 0
Q2 2014 2 14 5 0
Q3 2014 2 18 1 0
Q4 2014 8 10 3 0

Question 13

Please rate the level of impact that these current policy issues have on your sector.

Answer Options Highly Negative Slightly Negative Neutral Slightly Positive Highly Positive
"Clean Slate Approach" to corporate tax reform 2 1 11 3 4
Cyber security 1 10 5 3 2
Debt ceiling 2 12 7 0 0
Healthcare 1 16 4 0 0
Immigration reform 0 3 11 6 1
Oil prices 0 1 13 7 0
Repatriation of overseas cash 0 4 14 2 1
U.S. deficit 2 13 6 0 0

Question 14

Question 15

The CNBC Global CFO Council told us in April that their firms have no significant hiring plans for the U.S. in 2013 while over a third of the council would either maintain or decrease headcount. In June, over half the council stated that hiring plans by their firms are unchanged.

Do you believe the United States is experiencing a 'jobless recovery'?

Answer Options Response Percent
YES 66.7%
NO 33.3%

Question 16

Question 17

Question 18

Question 19

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) kicked off a summer-long "road show" this July to promote an overhaul of the US tax code.
What is the probability that the following talking points on corporate tax reform will become reality?

Answer Options Highly probable Slightly probable Hard to say Slightly improbable Highly improbable
Bi-partisan support 0 2 5 7 7
Comprehensive reform 0 4 4 7 6
Deficit neutral 0 4 4 9 4
Fair treatment of foreign earnings 0 4 6 10 1
New corporate tax rate of 25% 0 7 3 6 5
Revenue neutral 0 4 4 7 6

Question 20

Finance ministers of the G20 met this month and backed a "fundamental" rethink of the rules on taxing multinational corporations to close loopholes and reduce sovereign tax arbitrage.

In your view, what is the likelihood that the G20 will make the following policy changes:

Answer Options Very Likely Somewhat Likely Somewhat Unlikely Unlikely N/A
Close loopholes 0 6 8 6 1
Maintain rules for level playing field 0 6 7 8 0

_ By Anthony Volastro, Segment Producer, CNBC