Trump Effect on Business: Upbeat on Economy, Tax Reform

A survey of business owners found a majority of them maintain an upbeat outlook on the U.S. economy, and have a mostly positive view of federal regulatory changes implemented by the Trump administration. The survey was commissioned by KeyBank.

The survey also found 70 percent of the respondents felt federal corporate tax legislation would likely pass by the end of the year.

Key's business customers "are certainly anticipating tax reform, they certainly would welcome tax reform," said Tony Rizzo, Key's commercial banking sales leader for the Buffalo market. "But I don't think their business plans today are based on the fact that there will be tax reform.

Tax reform, Rizzo said, is "in the back of their minds, it's not in the forefront of their minds."

"I think it's business as usual until it happens," Rizzo said. "If and when it does happen, it's kind of icing on the cake."

The quarterly survey of middle market businesses around the country found 54 percent of them considered the regulatory changes made this year as somewhat positive or very positive for them. Thirty six percent viewed the changes as neutral or resulting in no change for them, while another 10 percent saw the changes as negative.

Forty seven percent of respondents described their outlook for the U.S. economy as excellent or very good. Sixty eight percent said they were planning to expand their businesses, while 69 percent said they were likely to consider an acquisition in the next six months.

The survey, conducted Sept. 5 to 13, contacted 300 owners and executives at middle market businesses, with sales between $20 million and $4 billion. The participants were a mix of Key and non-Key customers.

In his own commentary, Bruce McCain, chief investment strategist for Key Private Bank, said even though major business surveys show "some of the best numbers in decades," industrial growth "has not accelerated sharply." The auto, housing and energy sectors have shown weakness in recent months, he said.

The U.S. economy has improved since the start of 2016, "but shows no clear evidence of faster long-term growth," McCain said.

"While slower than expected, growth remains respectable with no serious evidence of an oncoming recession," he wrote.

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