Optimism about the country’s economy is on the rise among professional accountants in business leadership positions. However, protectionist trends in the United States remain a concern, says a new survey conducted for the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada).

The CPA Canada Business Monitor (Q1 2017) found 38 per cent of the business leaders surveyed are optimistic about Canada’s economic prospects over the next 12 months – an increase from 32 per cent in Q4 2016, says the study released May 12. In the first quarter of 2016, only 22 per cent of those surveyed expressed optimism about the economy.

Protectionist winds

Twenty-three per cent of respondents said protectionist trade sentiments in the U.S. are the biggest challenge facing the Canadian economy, while 17 per cent saw oil prices as the biggest challenge.

Fifteen per cent of business leaders surveyed in Q1 2017 had a pessimistic outlook for the economy, which is a decline of 21 per cent from Q4 2016. Almost half of respondents (47 per cent) were neutral about the outlook in this year’s first quarter survey.

Underlying economic momentum

"This quarter's results reinforce Canada's underlying economic momentum," says Joy Thomas, president and CEO, CPA Canada. "Uncertainty remains a constant shadow over the country's growth prospects because of trade and oil prices but the business leaders are not allowing themselves to be paralyzed by it as demonstrated by the climb in optimism."

Business optimism reached 58 per cent in the first quarter, up from 54 per cent in Q4 2016. These findings show how respondents view their own businesses’ prospects for the next year.

Anticipating revenue growth

Sixty-nine per cent of respondents said they are anticipating revenue growth over the next year, up from 65 per cent for the previous quarter. Sixty-three per cent say they expect an increase in profits, up from 57 per cent in Q4 2016.