Survey: CEOs less confident in short-term expectations

A quarterly measure of confidence among business executives has dropped on less upbeat expectations for continued growth.

The Conference Board reported that its Measure of CEO Confidence fell three points to 59 for the third quarter.

A reading above 50 reflects more positive than negative responses to the surveys upon which the index is based.

“While CEOs say economic conditions have improved from the start of the year, their expectations for growth in the short term have softened,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators for the Conference Board, a business research and membership association.

In assessing current economic conditions, 52 percent of the chief executive officers responding to the third quarter survey said economic conditions have improved over the past six months, up  six points from the second quarter.

However, only 41 percent of CEOs said conditions had improved their industries, down seven points from the last quarter.

In assessing their expectations for the next six months, slightly more than 44 percent of CEOs said they anticipate improving conditions, down nine points from the second quarter. Still, 51 percent of executives said they believe conditions will remain the same.

Just 34 percent of CEOs said they anticipate improvement in their industries, down 12 points from the last quarter. Another 51 percent of executives said they expect no change.

While CEOs remained optimistic overall about growth prospects in the United States and India, they were less upbeat in their expectations for China, Europe and Japan.

Executives’ assessment of current economic conditions in Europe and Japan went from positive to negative. Short-term expectations declined, but remained positive for China, Europe and Japan. Expectations for Brazil edged up, but remained negative.

Responding to a separate survey question, nearly 21 percent of executives reported increasing capital spending plans since January, while 17 percent said they’d scaled back spending. CEOs most frequently cited sales volume as the factor affecting their decisions to both increase and decrease capital spending.

The last time CEOs were asked about capital spending in 2012, only 9 percent of executives had increased capital spending plans and 32 percent reported cuts.