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CEO Confidence in the US Economy is at a Two-Year High

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • CEOs are feeling more upbeat about the economy, according to the results of a survey that measures sentiment among business leaders.
  • The index of CEO confidence rose to 53, above the 50 level that suggests optimism about the economy, the latest Conference Board report showed, for the first time since the first quarter of 2022.
  • CEOs say the biggest challenge they face domestically this year is political uncertainty ahead of the U.S. elections.

American chief executives are more positive about the U.S. economy than they’ve been at any time in the past two years, according to a recent survey.

The index of CEO confidence rose to 53, above the 50 level that suggests optimism about the economy, the latest Conference Board report showed. This is the first time the index has exceeded 50 since the first quarter of 2022. It was at 46 in the last three months of 2023.

“CEOs are feeling better about the economy, but remain cautious about risks ahead,” said Conference Board Trustee Roger W. Ferguson, Jr.

The greatest domestic challenge affecting businesses this year, according to Ferguson, is political uncertainty ahead of US elections; globally, cited by 51%. The spread of existing wars was cited by 46% of those surveyed as the biggest risk.

The two main developments the CEOs flagged as benefiting business were reduced inflation, with 34% picking this point, and Federal Reserve interest rate cuts, chosen by 28% of those surveyed as a tailwind.

The survey showed that 36% of respondents expect economic conditions to improve in the coming six months, up from 19% last quarter. In turn, 27% expect conditions to worsen, versus 47% in the previous survey.

Meanwhile, more CEOs are expecting to lay off staff than in the fourth quarter last year. The Conference Board survey found that 23% expect to lay off workers, up significantly from 13% last quarter.

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