- Economic fundamentals strong as widespread uncertainty fuels global optimism drop
LONDON 23 January 2019: Following a period of heightened optimism and strong economic growth, the outlook for businesses in 2019 is markedly more reserved as the global economic cycle cools and political uncertainty begins to bite, according to the latest research from Grant Thornton’s International Business Report (IBR).
The research, which gathers responses biannually from 5,000 business leaders in 35 economies including the G20, found that global optimism is now sitting at net 39%, a significant fall of 15pp from 54% in Q2 of 2018, and the weakest score since Q4 2016.
Economic uncertainty is identified by business leaders as the biggest risk, peaking at 50%, a rise of 22pp from Q2 2018. This rise can be partly attributed to geopolitical tensions such as the US/China trade war and the upsurge of populist sentiment in many major western economies such as Italy and Spain.
European sentiment has dropped 18pp to 28% since Q2 2018, and in the UK, optimism has plummeted to 9% as the spectre of Brexit looms large. Revenue expectations are in sharp decline at net 41%, down from net 59% and profitability expectations also took a hit, down globally at net 39%, a decrease of 9pp.
Optimistic about the future
However, it’s not all bad news and despite the spike in uncertainty, over 60% of respondents were either optimistic or very optimistic about the future. This is reflected in export expectations with only 11% expecting a decrease and 84% of leaders expecting revenues to either stay the same or increase.
Despite the ominous global outlook and slowdown in GDP growth for many advanced economies, emerging APAC* and Latin American have broadly bucked the prevailing gloom. For example, optimism in emerging APAC is at 57%, reflective of the increasing regional economic integration and collaboration between south-east Asian countries and a reducing reliance on trade with China whose economic slowdown is beginning to have knock on effects.
David Peneycad, global leader, Grant Thornton International says: “While global financial markets are increasingly volatile, business leaders in the real economy remain optimistic because global GDP is forecast to continue growing and they know their business will grow with it. Despite increasing down side risk, economic fundamentals remain strong and opportunities exist.”
Traditionally, in times of economic uncertainty, additional expenditure and investment seems counter-intuitive and many businesses tend to shore up their operations and significantly reduce or cease investment. However, this is a time when investing in capabilities and infrastructure can pay dividends and, when the economy turns, prudent businesses can react with speed to take advantage.
David Peneycad says: “As the economic cycle cools, it’s clear that business globally won’t have it as good as they did in 2018. However, with the IMF predicting global economic growth of 3.5% in 2019, there is not a clear consensus about the probability or timing of a global recession. What we are seeing is a return to normality with more balanced and sustainable growth for economies.”
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Notes to editors:
International Business Report
The Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) is a survey of both listed and privately held businesses. Launched in 1992, the IBR now provides insight into the views and expectations of more than 10,000 businesses across 35 economies.
Questionnaires are translated into local languages and fieldwork is undertaken on a biannual basis, through both online and telephone interviews. The data for this release is from interviews conducted in November 2018 with chief executive officers, managing directors, chairperson or other senior executives from all industry sectors.
More information: www.grantthornton.global/en/insights/Navigating-the-global-economy
About Grant Thornton International Ltd*
Grant Thornton is one of the world’s leading organisations of independent assurance, tax and advisory firms. These firms help dynamic organisations unlock their potential for growth by providing meaningful, forward looking advice. Proactive teams, led by approachable partners, use insights, experience and instinct to understand complex issues for privately owned, publicly listed and public sector clients and help them to find solutions. More than 52,000 Grant Thornton people across over 130 countries, are focused on making a difference to the clients, colleagues and the communities in which we live and work.
*All references to Grant Thornton International in the press release and this “Notes to editor” section are to Grant Thornton International Ltd. Grant Thornton International Ltd is a non-practicing, international umbrella entity organized as a private company limited by guarantee incorporated in England and Wales.
Emerging APAC is defined by the IBR as mainland China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.