Executives of mid-sized U.S. companies more upbeat: survey

Mon Apr 9, 2012 11:44am EDT

A shopper walks by the sodas aisle at a grocery store in Los Angeles April 7, 2011. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

A shopper walks by the sodas aisle at a grocery store in Los Angeles April 7, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

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(Reuters) - Executives of mid-sized U.S. businesses are more optimistic about the national economy than they were a year ago, and many now expect to need financing for investment, according to a survey by JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N).

The bank found 49 percent of executives surveyed were upbeat about the economic outlook -- 10 percentage points more than in a similar survey last year. Some 79 percent were optimistic about their own company's performance in 2012, up from 72 percent last year.

"The mood out there has shifted," said Doug Petno, chief executive officer of the company's commercial bank. JPMorgan surveyed financial decision makers at companies with annual revenue of $10 million to $500 million.

Analysts and investors are likely to pose questions about the outlook of business customers when JPMorgan and other major banks report first-quarter financial results and hold conference calls this week and next.

Investors are concerned that bank customers will not want to borrow nearly as much money as banks have available to lend. Changes in business borrowing are also watched as indicators of the health of the economy.

JPMorgan said 75 percent of executives polled anticipate that they will need financing this year for capital equipment, facilities, acquisitions, software and working capital.

Outstanding bank loans to businesses began to increase last year and were up about 14 percent in March from a year earlier, according to the Federal Reserve. Current balances of $1.13 trillion at domestically chartered banks were first reached in October 2007.

JPMorgan economist Jim Glassman said the survey results are consistent with "the signs you expect to see as the economy starts to gain momentum."

(Reporting by David Henry in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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