According to a new survey by SEB, Swedish and Norwegian financial officers have become much more concerned about the business environment as index components show a deterioration in confidence, particularly regarding prospective business conditions. SEB’s Financial Officers’ Survey, addressed to 100 of the largest companies in Sweden and Norway, shows that respondents have become much more pessmistic during the summer. SEB’s Financial Officers Index (FOI) for Sweden, published 24 August 2011, stands at 55, down from 62 in May. The FOI for Norway, published bi-annually, stands at 55, down from 64 in February.
Respondents are particularly worried about demand following weak economic growth signals from the US and continuing debt problems in Europe. While financial positions generally remain strong, officers have become more cautious, favouring debt reduction over strategic investments in the event of a liquidity surplus. Furthermore, the present decline in index values has been significantly affected by concerns regarding the development of credit spreads and equity markets, reflecting economic unrest in several European countries and uncertainties involving their respective banking systems, as well as worries over future economic growth.
“Concerns regarding demand have increased significantly among financial officers in both Sweden and Norway. Far fewer companies now plan to employ more staff domestically during the next six months, while profit expectations for 2011 are declining despite generally solid 2Q11 earnings reports. As might have been expected, Asia is regarded as most likely to generate growth going forward. In Norway, the lack of a suitably qualified workforce remains a more urgent concern for respondents compared to their Swedish counterparts,” said Ebba Lindahl, head of credit research at SEB.
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