CEO confidence surges in fourth-quarter survey

Business executives are far more optimistic about the economy in general and their industries in specific, according to the latest results of a quarterly survey.

The Conference Board reported that its Measure of CEO Confidence jumped 12 points to 62 for the fourth quarter of 2010. A reading above 50 reflects more positive than negative responses.

“The bounce back in CEO confidence suggests that the cloud of pessimism that prevailed in the third quarter has lifted and CEOs are once again optimistic,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “The improvement in both current and future conditions suggests a strong finish for 2010 and continued growth in the first half of 2011.”

In assessing current economic conditions, 56 percent of chief executive officers responding to the fourth quarter survey said conditions were better than six months ago — up from 32 percent in the third quarter. In assessing their own industries, nearly 55 percent of CEOs said conditions had improved. That’s up from 38 percent in the third quarter.

CEOs also were more upbeat in their outlook for the next six months: 56 percent of executives said they expect conditions to improve, up from 22 percent in the third quarter. Nearly

51 percent of executives anticipate improving conditions within their industries, up from 28 percent in the previous quarter.

Business executives also were asked about their plans for selling prices in 2011. Eight percent of CEOs anticipate price increases above 10 percent. On average, CEOs expect to increases prices 3.3 percent in 2011, up from 1.6 percent last year. Meanwhile, 10 percent of CEOs plan to decrease prices and 2 percent foresee no changes.