CEOs 'Marginally More Optimistic' About U.S. Economy

By John S. McClenahen Chief executive officers of corporations belonging to the Washington, D.C.-based Business Roundtable (BRT) are a bit more positive about the U.S. economy than they were in April. "More CEOs expect sales to increase, fewer plan to reduce capital spending and employment, and overall they are marginally more optimistic about economic growth in 2003," says Philip M. Condit, BRT's chairman and chairman and CEO of Chicago-based Boeing Co. On average, they expect inflation-adjusted U.S. GDP to grow about 2.3% this year, a tenth of a percentage point higher than the 2.2% they forecast four months ago. In a BRT survey this month, 69% of the CEOs responding say they expect their companies' sales to increase during the next six months. In a similar survey back in April, 56% anticipated higher sales. Some 16% now expect employment to grow during the next six months, compared to 9% in April. However, the chief executives remain cautious about investing in new plant and equipment. While only 12% expect to reduce capital outlays during the next six months compared to 27% in April, only 14% of the CEOs surveyed this month expect their capital expenditures to increase during the next six months, down from 18% in April. Some 117 CEOs participated in the latest survey. The 150-member BRT is a public policy association of CEOs whose corporations have a combined workforce of more than 10 million employees in the U.S. and $3.7 trillion in revenues.

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