CEOs hopeful about economic recovery

Posted: Thursday, March 04, 2004

WASHINGTON America's business executives are hopeful about the economic recovery's staying power, with many expecting sales to increase in the next six months, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The Business Roundtable's quarterly survey found that 88 percent of the chief executive officers polled were predicting an increase in sales in the next six months.

Eleven percent said they expected no change in sales and 1 percent thought sales would go down.

''America's CEOs believe that the U.S. economy is on course for continued steady improvement over the next six months,'' said Hank McKinnell, chair of the Business Roundtable and chair and CEO of Pfizer Inc.

On capital spending a key ingredient for a lasting recovery 43 percent said they planned to boost such investment over the next six months. That marked an improvement from the previous survey in December, when 35 percent said they expected to increase capital spending.

Still, 50 percent in Wednesday's survey said they didn't expect any change in capital spending in the months ahead and 7 percent were projecting a cutback.

Addressing the jobs situation, 33 percent polled said they expected to step up hiring in the next six months. That's up from 25 percent in the last survey.

Forty-five percent in Wednesday's survey, however, didn't expect any change in their company's employment and 22 percent expected a decrease.

Job growth in the United States has been slow. In terms of more robust job creation in the range of a net 200,000 to 300,000 jobs a month that analysts are looking for, McKinnell said: ''We're not quite that bullish at this point.''

McKinnell said job losses in the United States are tied to strong productivity gains by companies, which have been able to produce more goods with fewer workers not the ''outsourcing'' of U.S. jobs to other countries.

The survey was based on 122 response of top CEOs who are members of the Business Roundtable an association of chief executive officers of the corporations that represent more than 10 million employees in the United States and $3.7 trillion in annual revenue.

The survey was taken from Feb. 17 through March 1. A margin of error was not available.

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