Trendsetter Barometer® business outlook
Top findings from Q1 2017
“If we move past the crazy first days of this president and get something done, it would be great.” So said the CFO of an employee benefits and payroll services company when we spoke with him in the first quarter of this year. And “great” is indeed how some private companies think Trump’s presidency could be, given the right circumstances. “It’s too soon to tell, but based on Trump's priorities, we are off to a great start in making America great again,” opined the CFO of a meat products company. Other private-company leaders are less upbeat: “Trump may destroy relationships around the world and set back international relations,” the president of an IT consulting speculated.
We see this mixed picture reflected elsewhere, too, with the stock market responding favorably to President Trump’s first 100 days in office but with the economy barely growing in the first quarter. And yet various fundamentals remained solid in the first quarter, which may account in large part for private companies’ sustained post-election optimism about the US economy. Two-thirds of them feel positive on that score — a good one-year leading economic indicator of US GDP growth. And nearly all Trendsetter firms anticipate revenue growth. However, that growth is expected to be more modest than what we generally see among these companies, resulting in fewer planned business initiatives, less money earmarked for capital expenditures, and flattening wages for Trendsetter employees, which is a leading indicator of payroll movement in the broader economy over the next year.
But as the CEO of a safety-equipment manufacture summed things up: “It’s too early to determine success of the new administration — 2016 was successful, and hopefully that trend will continue.” For our part, we’ll certainly let you know what trends continue to emerge in our survey as we keep talking with private-company leaders in the second quarter. To hear about what 300+ of them have told us already this year, please delve further via the thematic areas below.
About the survey