National CFO survey finds optimism up, along with inflation worries

Grant Thornton LLP, in a survey of more than 300 CFOs and senior comptrollers, reported that 48 percent say the economy should improve over the next six months, but 66 percent of the respondents say they will raise prices.

Six months earlier, the survey reported 30 percent saying they expected the economy to improve in the same time period; 35 percent said they would raise prices.

Wally Gruenes, Grant Thornton's national managing partner for consumer and industrial products, said in a statement: "This was to be expected given the increase in commodity raw material costs experienced by most manufacturers over the last 12 months. With the precipitous increase in these commodity prices in recent months, manufacturers have no choice but to pass along such increases to their customers."

Of particular concern, according to 96 percent of respondents, was the cost of raw materials - cotton, metals, and petroleum-based products. Energy costs were cited by 58 percent.

"The rise in commodity prices has added a bit more of a concern, but the economy is still on a path to strong and sustainable growth," said Richard Wobbekind, president of the National Association for Business Economics, according to a Bloomberg report on a similar NABE survey. NABE panelists forecast the acceleration in inflation caused by commodities will "be largely temporary."

In the Grant Thornton survey, 47 percent responded that they plan to hire and 58 percent say they are optimistic about their own company over the next six months. These figures show an increase from 18 percent and 35 percent, respectively, from six months ago.

The survey results were reported prior to the Tuesday release of industrial production data that showed output was unchanged last month after a 0.7 percent gain in March, according to the Federal Reserve.
Grant Thornton LLP surveyed 318 U.S. CFOs and senior controllers, including 50 from manufacturing companies, between March 22 and April 6, 2011.

Another survey, conducted by American Express and the CFO Research Global Business & Spending Monitor, said that among U.S. executives, 79 percent of participants expected "modest growth" in the economy. Most said growth wouldn't occur until the end of 2011 and that the most jobs would occur in sales.
 

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