Saving (not investment) still in fashion

It’s that time of year again, when the executives who spend the bulk of their time putting analyzing „the numbers” — the cash flowing into and out of company coffers — offer up their best guess about what the future holds.

As is usually the case with these guys, money talks and all the other B.S. walks — which is why, as CFO Magazine reports in „Stuck on Hold,” they (still) see little cause for optimism in the period ahead:

Most CFOs in the latest Duke/CFO survey have plans for growth, but weak employment is dampening their spirits.

Finance chiefs remain uncertain about the economy, and their lingering doubts bode poorly for the unemployment rate, according to the findings of the latest Duke University/CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook Survey. The survey, which polled 1,102 senior finance executives worldwide in late May and early June, finds that U.S. finance chiefs have, to put it mildly, limited plans to hire.

On average, CFOs expect to increase their full-time domestic employee base by less than 1% over the next 12 months, and a majority say their workforces will not return to prerecession levels until 2012 or later. The resulting negative impact on consumer spending may fuel a vicious cycle in which businesses put off hiring until they see better results, yet results remain stagnant as tightfisted consumers worry about reduced wages, benefits, and employment opportunities.

Consumers aren’t the only ones worrying. While 40% of U.S. CFOs say they are more optimistic about the economy than they were last quarter, and 46% say they are more optimistic about their own companies, those figures are down from the past three quarters.

Credit remains tight at many companies, limiting plans for growth — including growth in employment. Small companies, widely considered to be disproportionately big job producers, are feeling the credit crunch more than large enterprises; a third of companies with fewer than 100 employees report that borrowing has grown more difficult in the past six months.

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