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Data: Deloitte; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Top executives of North American companies said expectations for earnings and revenue growth for the next year have declined slightly, but prospects to return more money to shareholders are on the upswing, according Deloitte's quarterly survey of more than 130 chief financial officers.

The big picture: At U.S. companies, expectations for shareholder payouts are at the highest level in the survey's 8-year history, accelerated in recent months — along with stock buybacks — by proceeds from the GOP's tax law. Whether corporations use the windfall to fund dividends or share repurchases as opposed to reinvesting in the broader economy has been a sticking point for those who oppose the tax law.

Other findings:

  • For the first time this year, executives said internal factors like quality of talent or innovation were more of a risk to company performance than external ones like an economic slowdown, interest rates, or policy uncertainty. Still, CFOs were "overwhelmingly" worried about the trade war and tariffs.
  • More than 70% of CFOs said U.S. stock markets are overvalued. That's the most in two quarters, but still below the two-year average.
  • Optimism about their own company's prospects fell for the second straight quarter, led by companies in the technology and banking sectors.

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