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

Those expecting to hire falls from 35 to 29 per cent

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.

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 per cent rate in 2016, down from their 2.4 per cent 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 per cent from 62 per cent and to 34 per cent from 30 per cent, respectively.

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

"Mixed expectations for near-term sales, investment, hiring and growth point to an economy that continues to lack momentum," Doug Oberhelman, CEO of Caterpillar 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.

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