91% of businesses plan to maintain or increase capital spending

Most small and midsize U.S. businesses have a positive outlook for the domestic economy and expect their business to continue growing this year, according to the annual JPMorgan Chase ‘Business Leaders Outlook’ report released earlier this month.

They’re most optimistic about their own prospects, as the economic expansion stretches to a full decade and they’ve had a full year to digest the corporate tax cut. In all, 84% of midsize businesses and 74% of small businesses are optimistic about their company performance.

“Businesses are being more cautious as they focus their growth plans on what they can control,” said Jim Glassman, senior economist at JPMorgan Chase. “They’re investing back into their business and preparing for disruptive forces like emerging technologies.”

The majority of businesses – 73% of midsize ones and 55% of small – remain optimistic about the national economy, though that’s down 16 points and 8 points from a year ago, respectively.

“Businesses remain optimistic about the global outlook, but are more cautious than they were last year because of trade tensions, uncertainty around tariffs and where we are in the economic cycle,” Glassman said.

Just 39% of midsize businesses and 38% of small businesses are optimistic about the global economic outlook for 2019, down 30 points and 13 points, respectively.

Investing for Growth

Nearly all businesses – 91% of small and midsize companies – plan to maintain or increase their capital expenditures. That’s because 81% of midsize companies expect their revenue/sales to increase in 2019 and 74% expect higher profits. Among small businesses, 60% expect revenue/sales growth and 58% expect to see higher profits.

Help Wanted

Two-thirds (66%) of midsize companies plan to hire more full-time personnel and 80% plan to increase compensation in the next year. Small businesses are more conservative: Just over one-third (36%) plan to add full-timers and 41% will increase compensation.

Good Help Hard to Find

Midsize businesses rank the limited supply of talent as their #1 challenge, and it’s become more challenging over the last few years. More than half (54%) of midsize businesses report being very or extremely concerned. Small business are concerned but to a lesser degree: 28% are very or extremely concerned about potential challenges due to a limited supply of candidates.

Taking on Technology

Company leaders are already preparing to face disruptive technology changes and challenges: 75% of midsize companies and 52% of small ones have taken actions such as:

• Designated in-house person/team for identifying threats and opportunities

• Developed proactive counter measures

• Collected additional data for analysis

• Created a contingency plan

• Implemented regular firewall testing.

Disruptive technology is defined by the survey as one that displaces an established technology and shakes up the industry or is a ground-breaking product or service that creates a completely new industry.

JPMorgan Chase’s Business Leaders Outlook survey was conducted online from November 8 to 16, 2018 for small businesses (annual revenues between $100,000 to $20 million) and from November 8 to 21, 2018 for middle market companies ($20 million to $500 million). In total, 1,817 small and midsize business leaders in various industries across the U.S. participated in the survey. For year-over-year trends, current data is compared to data collected in the first quarter of previous years. The results of this online survey are within statistical parameters for validity, and the error rate is plus or minus 2.5% for the small business findings and plus or minus 3.36% for the midsize business findings, both at the 95% confidence level.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2.6 trillion and operations worldwide. The Firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing, and asset management. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, JPMorgan Chase & Co. serves millions of customers in the United States and many of the world’s most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients under its J.P. Morgan and Chase brands. Information about JPMorgan Chase & Co. is available at jpmorganchase.com.

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