CEO Confidence Ticked Lower in Q3 of 2016

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The Conference Board is perhaps best known for its monthly readings on consumer confidence, but it also releases a quarterly CEO confidence survey. Unfortunately, CEO confidence fell in the third quarter, after having increased in the second quarter.

CEO confidence was at 50 in the third quarter of 2016, down from 52 in the previous quarter. Similar to other readings, a reading above 50 points reflects more positive than negative responses.

The appraisal of current economic conditions was less optimistic from CEOs, with 17% saying conditions are better compared to six months ago, down from 21% last quarter. The assessment of current conditions by CEOs in their own industries also fell; 21% stated that conditions in their own industries have improved versus 30% in the second quarter.

CEOs’ short-term outlook for the U.S. economy held steady, with 25% expecting better economic conditions over the next six months. The outlook for their own industries fell in the third quarter, with the reading falling to 23% (from 33%) of CEOs anticipating an improvement over the next six months.

Things are even a bit different at the global level. CEOs’ assessment of current conditions in the United States, Europe and China declined slightly. CEOs’ assessment of Japan, Brazil and India improved, while remaining moderately pessimistic about Japan and Brazil. CEOs are positive about short-term expectations for business conditions in India, the United States and China, while prospects for conditions in Europe declined into negative territory.

On capital spending, about 23% CEOs reported increases to their own capital spending plans since January of this year. Roughly the same expected to scale back spending.

Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at the Conference Board, said:

Confidence among CEOs decreased in the third quarter this year, but CEOs’ short-term outlook for the U.S. remains positive. Sentiment regarding Europe’s outlook declined, most likely due to the expected negative fallout from Brexit. CEOs’ outlook for Brazil improved considerably from last quarter, but on whole remains negative, while expectations for growth in China have gone from negative to neutral. Regarding spending plans, the results were mixed. About a quarter of chief executives report increasing their companies’ capital spending plans since January, while the same proportion say they have scaled back spending.