Pessimism among Norwegian and Swedish CFOs continues to increase, driven by greater concerns regarding the business climate and the effect additional macroeconomic turmoil could have on their companies. Still, respondents express further satisfaction with their own financial position while most expect to increase profitability next year. Present index values remain depressed by concerns regarding the development of credit spreads, reflecting increasing economic unrest in several European countries and greater volatility and uncertainty in financial markets.
SEB's Financial Officers' survey, addressed to over 100 of the largest companies in Sweden and Norway, shows that respondents have become more pessmistic during the autumn, although the deterioration in sentiment has been slower than we reported over the summer. SEB's Financial Officers Index for Sweden published today is 51, down from 55 in August, and SEB's Financial Officers Index for Norway 54, down from 55 in August.
Swedish business climate deteriorating rapidly
"Concerns regarding demand have increased significantly among financial officers in Sweden particular as shown by the continued rapid deterioration in the business climate to near 2009 lows. Far fewer companies now plan to employ more staff either domestically or internationally during the next six months. At the same time, their investment expectations are decreasing. Swedish CFOs are also expressing increasing interest in using excess cash flow to repay debt, a clearly defensive strategy", says Disa Hammar, Credit Analyst at SEB.
More positive in Norway
"Despite volatile and uncertain financial markets, Norwegian CFOs appear relatively calm", says Henrik Blymke, Credit Analyst at SEB. "The Norwegian survey shows CFOs remain willing to invest and employ more personnel domestically, which must be regarded as positive".
Lending willingness among banks
According to the study, Swedish CFOs believe banks are less willing to lend, although their Norwegian counterparts report no change during the last three months. Only 52% of Swedish officers now rank banks' willingness to lend as "good", compared to 75% in August. The corresponding Norwegian share is 65%, compared to 67% in August.
This is the twenty-third publication of SEB's Financial Officers' Index Sweden and the sixth publication of SEB's Financial Officers' Index Norway. The purpose of this unique survey is to reflect changes of sentiment in the financial environment and facilitate the understanding of economic and financial trends. The survey comprises a total of 15 questions covering areas such as business climate, strategic investments, employment, views on currencies and interest rates, financial strength, and lending attitudes amongst financial institutions. The full report (in Swedish and Norwegian) is available at www.sebgroup.com\press.