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The Conference Board and PwC Measure of CEO Confidence, which had improved in the first half of the year, declined in the third quarter. The Measure now reads 48, down from 58 in the second quarter of 2015 (a reading of more than 50 points reflects more positive than negative responses).
“Confidence among CEOs waned in the third quarter,” said Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “However, expectations for the U.S., Europe and India remain positive. Short-term expectations for Brazil remain subdued, as does the outlook for Japan, but sentiment regarding China’s prospects has deteriorated considerably. Regarding spending plans, the results were mixed. More than a quarter of chief executives report increasing their companies’ capital spending plans since January, while 20 percent say they have scaled back spending.”
CEOs’ assessment of current economic conditions was considerably less positive than in the second quarter. Now, just 19 percent say conditions are better compared to six months ago, down from 46 percent last quarter. Likewise, business leaders’ assessment of conditions in their own industries was less positive, with just 18 percent claiming conditions in their own industries have improved, compared with 49 percent in the previous quarter.
CEOs are also less optimistic regarding the short-term outlook than earlier this year. Slightly over 22 percent of business leaders expect economic conditions will improve over the next six months, down from 38 percent last quarter. Expectations for their own industries were also more pessimistic, with less than 17 percent of CEOs anticipating an improvement versus 40 percent in the second quarter.
CEOs were less positive in their assessment of current economic conditions across the board. Sentiment regarding current conditions in the U.S., India, and Europe remain positive. However, sentiment regarding current conditions in China declined sharply. Sentiment for Brazil declined further, and Japan has now slipped into slightly negative territory.
Looking ahead, sentiment is rather guarded. CEO expectations for the U.S., Europe, and India are positive, while sentiment regarding Japan’s outlook has turned slightly negative. CEOs are extremely pessimistic about the near-term outlook for China and Brazil.
Capital Spending Plans Mixed
More than a quarter of chief executives report increasing their companies’ capital spending plans since January of this year, while 20 percent have scaled back spending, based on a supplementary question. In 2014, 21 percent of respondents had increased their capital spending plans and 17 percent had made cuts. An increase in sales volume was one of the most common reasons given for increasing capital investment plans, while a decline also played a key role in scaling back spending plans.
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