The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and the Institute of Management Accountants saw a decline in business confidence among accountants globally in the fourth quarter, but a rise in confidence among accountants in the U.S.

The ACCA and IMA’s Global Economic Conditions Survey for the fourth quarter polled more than 4,500 finance professionals and business leaders worldwide. The survey found that while the economic outlook has improved in the U.S. and China in the fourth quarter, confidence levels in the European Union have sunk to their lowest level since 2011.

Among the reasons for the global decline in business confidence abroad are plunges in government investment, changes in the political landscape, uncertainty over trade between the U.S. and China, and concerns over Brexit and the upcoming European elections.

Forty-four percent of the survey respondents expressed concern over declining incomes in the wake of government austerity measures in the Eurozone, and another 43 percent cited worsening business confidence. The resignation of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in December, along with other upcoming national elections in other parts of Europe, also led to a downbeat mood, while business confidence in the U.K. fell steeply ahead of negotiations over the “Brexit” from the European Union.

“Current political uncertainty is clearly having an impact on global business confidence,” said Faye Chua, head of business insights at ACCA, in a statement.

On the positive side, economic confidence in North America increased to its highest level since Q4 2014, with 33 percent of respondents indicating they felt more confident about their prospects, compared with 26 percent expressing less confidence. However, while confidence improved in the U.S., it dropped sharply in Canada in the fourth quarter, mainly due to the economy.

GECS business confidence survey from ACCA and IMA

“There is a real sense that companies in the United States are optimistic about their short-term prospects, with confidence rising for a fourth consecutive quarter,” said Raef Lawson, vice president of research and policy at the IMA, in a statement. “This is in part due to growing expectation of infrastructure spending and tax cuts under the new administration, and reflects ongoing improvements in economic health. Unemployment figures have fallen to pre-financial crisis levels, with 200,000 jobs added each month over the past year. Concerns remain however, particularly across the manufacturing sector, that an appreciating dollar could impact upon future exports, driving up costs.”

Michael Cohn

Michael Cohn, editor-in-chief of, has been covering business and technology for a variety of publications since 1985.