THE global economic recovery has run out of steam, according to ACCA's (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) latest Global Economic Conditions survey, with confidence taking a hit and a return to solid economic growth moving further away.

That is despite important improvements in conditions on the ground across most of ACCA’s risk indicators – especially the outlook for employment and investment – and even modest gains in the popularity of government actions to deal with economic turbulence.

Helen Brand, chief executive of ACCA, said: “These are sobering findings from our global network of members.

“It is good news that fewer businesses are making staff redundant, becoming insolvent or having trouble accessing finance but none of this translates to more business confidence or optimism. While accountants are breathing a sigh of relief, there is nothing to cheer about.”

ACCA’s findings suggest that past confidence gains have eased, especially among accountants, in Asia-Pacific and Africa, the two regions leading the recovery.

They now report fewer profitable opportunities for their organisations, as consumption in debt-laden wealthy countries refuses to keep up and governments roll back their support for businesses.

The key findings reveal:

23 per cent of respondents believe that the global economic outlook is improving, up slightly from 21 per cent in the last quarter

39 per cent say that we are at the bottom of the cycle and will stay there for some time to come

Respondents who believe that the global economic outlook is improving or about to do so are still outnumbered by those who think it is deteriorating or stagnating

Business confidence levels have also eased. Only a third now report any business gains at all, while 28 per cent report losses of confidence. Only 29 per cent of respondents adjusted their expectations of their organisations’ incomes upwards in the first quarter of 2010, down from 32 per cent in 2009.

Accountants have adjusted their views about the duration of the recovery – only 15 per cent now believe the recovery has less than a year to run, down from 18 per cent in late 2009.

Although one in two respondents predicted that the global economy would return to stable growth in one year or less, down marginally from late 2009, ACCA has also noticed a steady rise in the percentage of extreme pessimists – those expecting a recovery in three years or more – which now stands at 11.4 per cent, up marginally from last quarter.