Survey: CEO Confidence Rises on Hopes for Tax, Regulatory Reform

Capital investment, hiring and sales are all expected to increase over the next six months, according to Business Roundtable’s survey of chief executives published Tuesday.

Seventy-eight percent of chief executives forecasted an increase in demand over the next six months, compared with 67 percent who said the same thing in the fourth quarter of 2016, the survey showed. Fort-six percent of respondents said they expect increased capital spending, up from 35 percent last quarter, while 41 percent see expanded hiring, compared to 35 percent the previous quarter.

The survey of 141 CEOs was conducted between Feb. 8 and March 1.

Joshua Bolten, president and chief executive of the business group, attributed the increased optimism to tax and regulatory overhauls and infrastructure investment — key priorities of the Trump administration and the Republican-led Congress.

“It’s fair to say that CEOs do sense that the business environment is improving with the president’s focus on jobs and growth,” Bolten said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters.

Fifty-two percent of executives said tax reform is the best way to grow their companies, while 27 percent picked regulatory reform as a top driver of growth. Fifteen percent chose infrastructure investment.

The survey’s composite index rose from 74.2 points in the fourth quarter of last year to 93.3, the biggest gain since the fourth quarter of 2009, Bolten said.

It’s unclear when tax reform and other policy priorities will see congressional action given the infighting over efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. The administration has pegged August as its goal for seeing Congress pass a tax reform package.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Jamie Dimon, Business Roundtable’s chairman, said executives see room for significant economic improvement.

“I think the CEOs generally and strongly feel we can do a lot better than we’ve been doing,” Dimon said on the conference call.

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