By Jason Theodorou

A survey of chief financial officers (CFOs) by Deloitte has found that only 24% were optimistic about business prospects in the second quarter of the year, with an unpredictable market and the sovereign debt crisis among the factors dampening their spirits.

Chief financial officers predicted a 38% chance of a double dip recession, up from a rate of 33% in the first quarter of the year.

Chancellor George Osborne's imminent spending cuts and tax rises were partly blamed for the fall in sentiment, with two thirds of CFOs expecting their companies to suffer from the fiscal austerity. The findings came after the FTSE 100 fell by 4% in the past five days.

Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte, said: 'The latest CFO survey paints a picture of concern about growth coupled with improvements in the corporate credit and liquidity environment'.

'With fears of a double dip increasing, CFOs are maintaining a strong focus on costs. Yet cash flow is no longer the central preoccupation that it was and has dropped down CFOs' list of priorities'.

While CFOs were cautious about the effects of government policies, those surveyed by Deloitte said that financial pressures were easing to some degree. Deloitte said that the cash crisis in the corporate sector had abated significantly, with corporates more 'bullish' about prospects for their own cash flow than in any time in the last two years.

The report attributed these attitudes to improved credit conditions.

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