March 15, 2016 / 6:15 PM / in 2 years

U.S. CEOs less gloomy on economy, but only slightly: survey

CHICAGO (Reuters) - For the fourth consecutive quarter, U.S. chief executives had a glum outlook on prospects for the world’s largest economy despite a slight uptick from the previous quarter, according to a survey released on Tuesday.

Job seekers break out to visit corporate employment personnel at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation "Hiring Our Heroes" military job fair in Washington January 8, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

The Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index - a composite of CEO projections for capital expenditures, sales and job creation over the next six months - rose to 69.4 in the first quarter from 67.5 in the last quarter of 2015. Despite the increase, the index remains near three-year lows.

The CEOs polled said they expect the U.S. economy to grow at a 2.2 percent rate in 2016, down from their 2.4 percent estimate given at the end of 2015.

According to the survey, the measure of CEOs who expect higher sales and increased capital expenditures in the next six months rose - to 67 percent from 62 percent and to 34 percent from 30 percent, respectively.

But those who said they expected to hire more people in that period fell to 29 percent from 35 percent.

“Mixed expectations for near-term sales, investment, hiring and growth point to an economy that continues to lack momentum,” Doug Oberhelman, CEO of Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N) and chairman of the Business Roundtable, said in a statement. “These results only reinforce the need for Congress and the Administration to act this year to enact policies that boost job creation and economic growth.”

He added that those policies would include quickly

ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major trade deal, modernizing the U.S. business tax system and “embracing a smart regulatory environment.”

A majority of CEOs polled said the Trans-Pacific Partnership would make their companies more globally competitive and expand their U.S. operations.

Reporting by Nick Carey; Editing by Dan Grebler

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