banner image
Press Release

Business optimism falls in mature economies

Hopes for economic recovery in New Year hit by fall in business optimism in mature economies

q4 optimism tableHopes for a strong start to economic recovery in 2013 look to be diminishing as business confidence in mature economies continues to fall away. The latest data from the Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR), a survey of 3,200 business leaders in 44 economies, suggests economic uncertainty caused by concerns over the United States fiscal cliff and ongoing fears over the long-term viability of eurozone is dampening growth prospects.

The IBR reveals that global business optimism stands at just net 4% heading into the New Year. This halts a rally in confidence seen in the first half of 2012, when global business optimism reached 23%, and brings it nearer to the 0% level observed this time last year.

The fall in global business optimism has been largely driven by a huge fall in the worlds largest economy, the United States. Optimism amongst US business leaders climbed to 50% in Q2 this year, but slumped back to -4% in Q4 “ the lowest since the depths of the financial crisis. Expectations for increasing revenues (down 10 percentage points) and profits (down 9) both fell sharply over the past three months. This chimes with research from Grant Thornton US which suggests 40% of CFOs have delayed decision making because of fiscal cliff concerns (Grant Thornton US Fall 2012 CFO survey via



Ed Nusbaum, CEO of Grant Thornton International, said: “There is no question that protracted negotiations over how to resolve both the sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone and the fiscal cliff in the United States have weighed heavily on business confidence over the past six months. With the economic outlook clouded by these issues, business investment becomes a much riskier proposition for many.

“The hope, both in the United States and around the world, is that these issues can be resolved and that this drop in confidence is temporary rather than the start of a longer decline.”

Business optimism most volatile in mature markets

Regionally, the IBR reveals a more mixed picture. Business optimism in the emerging markets of Latin America remained relatively stable over the last year, and actually increased to 69% in Q4, up from 61% this time last year. The BRIC economies (34% to 39%) also remained consistently optimistic, while Asia Pacific (excl. Japan) has seen a rise from 23% to 28% over the same period.

By comparison, optimism in North America swung from 6% in Q4 2011 to 52% in Q2 2012, before falling back to just 1% in Q4 2012. The G7 economies have seen similar swings, while European businesses have reported a slow decline in business optimism.

Ed Nusbaum added: “The upswing in mature economy business optimism we saw in the first half of 2012 followed pronouncements by the ECB and the Federal Reserve on the level of support they were prepared to provide their respective economies. However, this confidence has dissipated over the second half of the year. By contrast, emerging economies have remained far less volatile. It’s a fascinating trend which drives home where the major problems in the global economy lie at present.

“Economic uncertainty understandably elicits a ‘wait and see’ policy from businesses, but we would urge owners not to lose sight of their long-term growth objectives. Opportunities exist for those dynamic businesses which are prepared to balance reason with instinct in their decision making. Those that lock in their best people and invest to be first out of the gate in a recovery are likely to find themselves ahead of the competition.


Notes to editors
The Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) provides insight into the views and expectations of more than 12,500 businesses per year across 44 economies. This unique survey draws upon 21 years of trend data for most European participants and 10 years for many non-European economies. For more information, please visit:

Data collection
Data collection is managed by Grant Thornton International's core research partner -Experian. Questionnaires are translated into local languages with each participating country having the option to ask a small number of country specific questions in addition to the core questionnaire. Fieldwork is undertaken on a quarterly basis. The research is carried out primarily by telephone.

IBR is a survey of both listed and privately held businesses. The data for this release are drawn from interviews with 3,200 businesses from all industry sectors across the globe conducted in November/December 2012. The target respondents are chief executive officers, managing directors, chairmen or other senior executives.


Dominic King, Research Manager,, +44 (0)20 7391 9537

John Vita 

Director of Public Relations and External Affairs

T +1 312 602 8955

Copy text of article