Chief financial officers (CFOs) are feeling increasingly confident about business and have a greater appetite for corporate risk, according to research from Deloitte.
The firm's Q1 2013 CFO Survey of 120 respondents - more than half from the UK's largest companies - shows that CFOs' perceptions of macroeconomic and financial uncertainty have dropped to the lowest level for two and a half years.
This quarter 23% of CFOs say their business faces a high level of external uncertainty - the lowest level since Q2 2011 (21%).
CFOs have also become more confident that the euro area will hold together, with the number who believe there is a chance of a break up in the next 12 months halving from 36% in Q2 2012 to 18% currently.
A third (34%) of CFOs say now is a good time to take risk on to their balance sheets, compared to 25% in Q4 2012 and 13% in the final quarter of 2011.
Credit conditions for large companies have improved for the third consecutive quarter. Over two-thirds (69%) of CFOs say that credit is more readily available, 60% rated credit as cheap and 67% say that bank borrowing is an attractive source of lending, the highest levels recorded since the survey started in Q3 2007.
As the economic outlook improves, CFOs are changing their balance sheet strategies. The survey shows the proportion of CFOs prioritising cost control dropped from 50% in Q4 2012 to 42% in Q1 2013 and those prioritising raising cash flow dropped from 49% to 39%.
Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte, said: 'CFOs have had to adapt to high levels of macro uncertainty in the last five years, which has had a pronounced effect on the way businesses are run. Sustained declines in uncertainty offer the prospect of stronger corporate activity to come. Our index of corporate defensiveness, having trended higher for two and a half years, has declined sharply.'