Two Business Surveys Find Conflicting Views of the Economy | Economy

A pair of surveys measuring the economic outlook of businesses showed mixed results Tuesday, as chief financial officers turned slightly more optimistic while small businesses were a little more pessimistic.

Deloitte’s Signals survey for the first quarter found an increased appetite for risk and growing optimism about the prospects for growth, but respondents said they were planning for both an economic recovery and recession.

While the finance executives were more optimistic than in prior quarters, they also doubted that inflation would improve much by year-end.

“93% said they expect to have a mild recession, but expressed confidence about being able to work through that,” said Steve Gallucci, global and business program leader at Deloitte. “Their appetite for risk is getting better.”

“There’s certainly a mixed bag around what CFOs expect,” Gallucci added. “Companies continue to be focused on controlling costs.”

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Meanwhile, the NFIB monthly survey of small business owners for February found a majority struggling with labor shortages and inflation although the percentage that were raising prices fell to a level last seen in April 2021.

Overall, the small business optimism index increased by 0.6 points to 90.9, beating expectations.

“Small business owners remain doubtful that business conditions will get better in the coming months,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “They continue to struggle with historic inflation and labor shortages that are holding back growth. Despite their economic challenges, owners are working hard to create new jobs to strengthen the economy and their firms.”

Among owners, 28% reported inflation as their top concern, up 2 points from January, while those expecting better business conditions in the next six months dropped 2 points.

Both surveys took place before the news broke over the weekend that the government was stepping in with extraordinary plans to guarantee the deposits of two banks that failed, Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank of New York.

Federal banking regulators said they were providing special loans to banks, as well as other steps, to assure that the financial system was able to deal with panicky customers and interest rate risks. Shares of regional banks that had slumped Monday were up sharply in premarket trading Tuesday morning, a promising sign that confidence is being restored to the system.

Markets are focused on Tuesday’s release of the consumer price index for February, with forecasts calling for a further slight moderation in inflation. The report comes ahead of next week’s Federal Reserve meeting where another increase in interest rates is expected – although that has been called into question with the latest developments in the banking sector.

Bessie Venters

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