For Third Straight Quarter, U.S. CEOs Cautious on Economy

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Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty ImagesRandall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T and chairman of the Business Roundtable.
By Nick Carey

CHICAGO -- For the third consecutive quarter, U.S. CEOs expressed growing caution about the country's economic prospects in the short term and more said they expected to curtail capital investments over the next six months, according to a survey released Tuesday.

The Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index -- a composite of CEO projections for sales, investment and hiring plans over the next six months -- fell 6.6 to 67.5 points in the fourth quarter, its lowest level in three years.

The long-term average for the index is 80.1 points.

The proportion of CEOs who said they expected their capital spending to decrease over the next six months rose to 27 percent from 20 percent in the third quarter.

Sixty percent of CEOs surveyed said they expected sales to increase over the next six months, down from 63 percent during the previous quarter.

CEOs said that regulation was the top cost pressure facing their business, followed by labor and health care costs.

Randall Stephenson, chairman of the Business Roundtable and CEO of AT&T (T), said in a statement that if "we really want to see the U.S. economy and hiring really take off, Washington needs to adopt a smarter approach to regulation."
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