(Adds economic outlook for 2015, 4th paragraph, comment from
AT&T CEO, 7th paragraph, and byline)
By Nick Carey
CHICAGO Dec 2 U.S. chief executive officers are
more pessimistic about their spending plans and the outlook for
the economy, but are more bullish on their hiring prospects,
according to a quarterly survey from the Business Roundtable
released on Tuesday.
Of the 129 CEOs who responded to the survey, 36 percent said
they expected to increase their capital spending in the next six
months, down from 39 percent in the third quarter and an
eight-point drop from 44 percent in the second quarter.
The Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index - a
composite index of CEO expectations for the next six months of
sales, capital spending and employment - dropped slightly to
85.1 from 86.4 in the third quarter. The index is above the
long-term average of 80.3, but more than 10 points below the
second quarter when it stood at 95.4.
CEOs said they expected 2015 U.S. economic growth of 2.4
percent, the same as their forecast for 2014.
"The economy ended the year essentially where it started -
performing below its potential," Randall Stephenson, chairman of
Business Roundtable and chief executive officer of AT&T Inc
, said in a release accompanying the survey results.
Stephenson added that the U.S. Congress needs to extend a
series of temporary tax breaks, including credits related to
research and development, plus approve a trade promotion
authority that would encourage business investment to help the
economy grow and create more jobs.
"We are constantly asking ourselves what would get the
economy" on a firmer footing, Stephenson said on a conference
call with reporters. "You really don't have to look further than
In the survey, 74 percent of respondents said they expected
sales to increase in the next six months, a slight increase from
73 percent in the previous quarter.
But 40 percent said they expected to hire more people over
the next half year, up from 34 percent in the last quarter but
still below the 43 percent of respondents who said in the second
quarter they expected to add jobs.
In the fourth quarter the survey asks CEOs what their top
cost pressures are and this year 39 percent said regulatory
costs were their leading concern over the next six months,
followed by labor and healthcare costs. Regulatory costs also
topped the list for CEOs in the previous two years.
(Reporting By Nick Carey; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)