One in four senior executives across the globe is less confident now than at the beginning of the year, according to an international study of economic recovery published today. However, the mood varies greatly from country to country. Pessimism is most pronounced in the U.S., where confidence levels have dropped since the beginning of the year, while optimism in the East continues to soar.
The research, conducted by international law firm Eversheds, reveals that businesses in the U.S. have buried their heads in the sand, taking the least proactive approach to combating the challenging economic climate. Conversely, businesses in China and Russia have led the charge in trying to drive demand, by searching for new market opportunities.
China is also leading the way in international expansion, with almost three quarters of those surveyed looking to expand into at least two foreign markets in the next 12 months, while just 18% of companies in the U.S. are seeking out international opportunities.
Eversheds' Tools for Recovery report, which captures the views of more than 1000 senior business figures across China, the U.S., Europe and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), also reveals signs of a revival in global mergers and acquisitions activity. One in five businesses (22%) said they would be on the acquisition trail in the year ahead, up from 13% in the last 18 months. Again, Russia is leading the way with 42% of businesses looking at acquisitions in the next 12 months.
Looking ahead, the research shows that businesses will continue to drive demand and will also have a stronger appetite to invest in three key areas -- staffing levels, marketing activity and research and development projects.
This follows some tough decisions during the last 18 months, with 46% of businesses cutting discretionary spending, 38% freezing or reducing pay and 34% making redundancies. Job losses during this period have been most prolific in the U.S., France and the UAE.