The results of the 2015 International Business Indicator survey reveal that while U.S. companies are still relatively bullish on their global opportunities, expectations have cooled in 2015 for short-term international activity. More than 250 executives at middle-market and larger U.S. companies engaged in international business participated in this year’s Indicator survey.

The International Business Indicator tracks the strength and direction of U.S. companies’ international business outlook and activity over time. The survey also examines where companies are planning to expand and the issues that affect their international business plans. View the materials below to learn more about the perceptions and global plans of U.S. companies.

International Business Indicator key findings video 

Sanjiv Sanghvi, head of Wells Fargo Global Banking, provides a high-level overview of the Indicator’s key findings.

Transcript:

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Results are in for the 2015 Wells Fargo International Business Indicator, revealing that the international outlook has softened for U.S. companies. The indicator score has dropped from sixty eight in 2014 to sixty three in this year's survey.

While U.S. companies are still relatively bullish on international opportunities, the drop may reflect their concern about continued weak global economic conditions.

Hello, I'm Sanjiv Sanghvi. 2015 marks the second year of our International Business Indicator survey of U.S. companies. The Indicator tracks the strength and direction of their international outlook and activity over time. Over 250 executives from mid-size and larger U.S. companies participated in this year's survey, and all of them conduct business internationally. Let's take a look at some of the key findings.

Overall, we see that U.S. companies' international business expectations have cooled this year. Only a minority of U.S. companies, 37 percent, see the global business climate improving in 2015 as compared with 53 percent that did in 2014. As a result, fewer companies than last year expect their international business activity to increase over the coming months, dropping from 69 percent in 2014 to 54 percent in 2015. These executives see the sluggish global economic environment impacting their international business in two key areas.

First, fewer U.S. companies expect their international business profits to increase, and second, fewer still expect their volume of exports to increase in 2015. However, we do see outlooks and expectations varying by the size of U.S. companies. Half of larger U.S. companies are optimistic about the international business climate, while less than a third of smaller companies share that same outlook. As a result, considerably more large companies anticipate increasing their international business activity in the next 12 months.

While short-term international expectations have cooled, in general, U.S. companies have a more confident attitude towards the global marketplace over the long run.

Eighty percent of business executives surveyed agreed that U.S. companies should consider expanding internationally for long-term growth. And this view seems to be reflected in their intentions, with the majority of U.S. companies looking to increase their international business development planning in 2015. In terms of where U.S. companies are looking for future international expansion, two-thirds believe that emerging markets offer the greatest revenue growth opportunity.

For 2015, we asked U.S. business executives what countries they're watching as future growth hot spots. China topped the list, suggesting that slowing growth there hasn't diminished the potential that U.S. companies see in this market. U.S. companies also view Mexico as a future hot spot, with Brazil, India, and Canada rounding out the top five. Here, too, we see a difference between large and small U.S. companies. Larger companies view Brazil and India as hot spots. Smaller companies see their growth potential closer to home with our neighbors in Canada and Mexico. China is the exception, with both larger and small U.S. companies eyeing future growth prospects there.

These have been just some of the key findings from the Wells Fargo 2015 International Business Indicator. We hope you find this information of value as you develop your global business plans. And as you do this, talk to Wells Fargo. We're ready to help you strengthen and build your international business in all types of market conditions.

Thank you.

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Indicator Full Survey Report

Comprehensive survey results, along with the complete, annotated questionnaire, are included in this report (PDF).

Indicator Key Findings Report

This two-page report (PDF) provides a summary of the key survey highlights.

Indicator Infographic

This infographic (PDF) provides a quick, visual summary of results.

Special Economic Commentary

Wells Fargo Securities Global Economist Jay Bryson provides his expert insights on the Indicator findings in this Special Commentary report (PDF).

About the 2015 survey

On behalf of Wells Fargo, global research firm GfK conducted 253 telephone interviews between December 12, 2014 and February 6, 2015, with executives at U.S. companies that conduct business internationally and have $50 million or more in annual revenue. Additionally, participants had to be at the associate vice president and director level or above, with either direct decision-making or some influence over the company’s international business plans and/or strategies. The margin of error on the total is 7.9% with a 95% confidence level. 

The International Business Indicator score represents the average of responses for two questions regarding the level of importance and activity that U.S. companies expect from their international business in the next 12 months. The Indicator score ranges from zero to 100, where 100 indicates an absolute positive outlook, 50 indicates a neutral outlook, and zero indicates an absolute negative outlook.

2014 Results