US CEOs slightly more optimistic on economy, hiring

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Chief executives in the United States expect to hire more workers in the next six months and for sales to improve modestly, a tepid if slightly optimistic reading on the US economy, a Business Roundtable survey has found.

The group's CEO Economic Outlook Index, released on Wednesday, rose to 84.3 in the second quarter from 81 in the first quarter and 65.5 in the fourth quarter of last year. Any reading above 50 indicated economic growth was expected.

The survey results showed that corporate optimism was inching higher as consumers spent more on a range of goods.

Roughly 32 per cent of CEOs said they expected to hire more workers in the next six months, a slight improvement from prior surveys. Roughly 26 per cent of CEOs expected to cut workers, a 1 percentage point increase from the last survey.

The unresolved US debt crisis as well as an "uncertain political environment" were holding back the American economy, the survey found.

"Overall, CEOs see the US economy still on a slow road to recovery," Mr Jim McNerney, chairman of the Business Roundtable and CEO of Boeing, said in a statement.

CEOs said they planned to spend less on capital projects in the next six months. Many companies have stashed billions in cash amid uncertainty about US tax reform. Some estimates have put Corporate America's cash stockpile near US$2 trillion (S$2.49 trillion).

The Roundtable surveyed 141 CEOs from May 13 through May 31.