CEOs temper U.S. economic growth outlook for 2015: Survey

Fewer expect to increase sales, investment, hiring

CHICAGO (Reuters) — U.S. chief executive officers have become a bit more pessimistic in their outlook for the American economy in 2015 and fewer of them expect to increase sales, investment and hiring this year, a quarterly business group survey said on Monday.

The Business Roundtable's second-quarter survey, conducted before U.S. gross domestic product for the first quarter was revised down last month to show an annualized 0.7 per cent contraction, found that CEOs expect 2.5 per cent GDP growth this year.

That is down from the 2.8 per cent growth expected in the last quarterly survey and 2.4 per cent at the end of last year.

In the most recent survey, 70 per cent of respondents said they expected sales to rise in the next six months, down from 80 per cent in the first quarter, while 35 per cent said they expected spending to increase over that period, down from 45 per cent in the previous survey.

"Of particular concern is the downward movement of our CEOs' investment plans," said Randall Stephenson, chairman of the Business Roundtable and CEO of AT&T. "Business investment is a key driver of economic expansion and job growth."

Stephenson said the U.S. Congress should enact tax reform and pass the Trade Promotion Authority, which would grant the president fast-track powers to negotiate trade agreements, in order to lift capital investment and boost the economy.

Thirty-four per cent of CEOs said they expected to hire more workers over the next six months, down from 40 per cent in the last quarterly survey.

The Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index, a composite index of expectations for the next six months for sales, capital spending and employment, fell to 81.3 from 90.8 in the first quarter. The long-term average of the index is 80.5.

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