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Pessimism about the strength of the Canadian economy is growing, finds a survey by Toronto-based Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada).

In the fourth quarter of 2018, 35% of professional accountants in leadership positions said they were pessimistic about the economy in the next 12 months, a significant increase from 16% a year prior. These findings, CPA Canada notes, came before the Bank of Canada reduced its forecast for 2019 GDP growth.

More than a quarter (26%) of respondents were optimistic about the economy, the lowest level since 2016 and down 48% year-over-year.

“Despite the recent spate of strong economic data, the sharp deterioration in economic sentiment highlights that Canada’s business leaders are rightly worried about the numerous external risks facing the economy,” Joy Thomas, president and CEO, said in a statement.

Some of these external risks as cited by survey participants are: protectionist trade sentiment south of the border (18%); uncertainty surrounding the Canadian economy (15%); and oil prices (12%).

Professional accountants were also less optimistic about prospects for their own organizations; company optimism was down to 49%, from 61% at the end of 2017.