CEO Optimism Rises for Sales and Capital Spending, but Not for Jobs

The Business Roundtable (BRT) released its first-quarter CEO Economic Outlook Survey for 2013, showing that average CEO economic expectations for the coming six-month period have improved for first time in four quarters. Unfortunately, CEO optimism may not translate to jobs growth yet. Chief executives are expecting higher sales and capital spending from their companies but are expecting that net hiring will remain flat.

The BRT said, “CEO economic expectations increased for the first time in four quarters. BRT CEOs also expect 2.1 percent growth for 2013, a slight increase from last quarter’s estimate of 2.0 percent.”

Jim McNerney, who is head of Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) and the chairman of Business Roundtable, said, “The relatively smaller improvement in the outlook for hiring, however, may reflect ongoing uncertainty and a wait-and-see attitude about the business climate in the United States, as agreement on the nation’s debt and budgetary issues remains elusive.”

Today’s survey release was up in the first quarter of 2013, to 81.0 from 65.6 in the fourth quarter of last year, and is back to the its highest level since the second quarter of 2012. The current index is at about its long-term average level of 79.2.

The BRT survey was completed between February 11 and March 1, 2013, and responses were received from 144 member CEOs for a 69% participation rate in the BRT survey. Here is a snapshot: