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CEO Survey: Confidence Increased Slightly in Q2 2024

According to the recent Conference Board Measure of CEO Confidence™, CEO optimism has improved to a reading of 54 in Q2 2024, up from 53 in the previous quarter. This marks the second consecutive quarter the Measure is above 50, indicating cautious optimism among CEOs after two years of pessimism. (A reading above 50 reflects more positive than negative responses.)

 

CEOs’ views about the economy have shifted from six months ago,” said Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., Vice Chairman of The Business Council and Trustee of The Conference Board. “Recession fears have significantly diminished: Only 35 percent of CEOs surveyed in April anticipate a recession within the next 12 to 18 months, down from 72 percent in Q4 2023. However, CEOs remain cautiously optimistic. Expectations for the economy six months ahead were slightly less positive compared to Q1, with fewer CEOs predicting 'much better' or 'better' conditions and more expecting conditions to stay the same. In terms of their own industries, fewer CEOs expect worsening conditions, while 46 percent believe conditions will remain unchanged.

 

CEOs remain cautious for the year ahead,” said Dana M. Peterson, Chief Economist of The Conference Board. “Fewer CEOs report expecting difficulty in finding qualified workers. Nonetheless, persistent labor shortage concerns are prompting many CEOs to anticipate retaining workers, leading to higher input costs as most firms plan to raise wages by over 3 percent in the next twelve months. CEOs indicate no changes to their capital spending plans, suggesting that strategies set in motion months ago are still on track. Regarding monetary policy, expectations for the number of interest rate cuts in 2024 are mixed, with 26 percent expecting two cuts, 38 percent anticipating one, and 31 percent foreseeing none. The top risks to their industries, as ranked by CEOs, include cyber risks, geopolitical instability, and legal and regulatory uncertainty.


Current Conditions


CEOs' assessment of general economic conditions was, on balance, more positive in Q2:


  • 16 percent said economic conditions were worse, down from 22 percent in Q1.

  • 30 percent of CEOs said economic conditions were better than six months ago, down from 32 percent last quarter.


CEOs assessed conditions in their own industries to be about the same in Q2 as in Q1:


  • 30 percent of CEOs said conditions in their industries were better compared to six months ago, down from 31 percent.

  • 26 percent said conditions in their own industries were worse, up from 25 percent.


Future Conditions


CEOs' expectations about the short-term economic outlook weakened in Q2:


  • 30 percent of CEOs expect economic conditions to improve over the next six months, down from 36 percent in Q1.

  • 26 percent expect conditions to worsen, up from 27 percent.


CEOs' expectations for short-term prospects in their own industries were slightly more optimistic in Q2:


  • Only 15 percent expect conditions to worsen, down from 20 percent in Q1.

  • 38 percent of CEOs expect conditions in their own industry to improve over the next six months, down from 39 percent.


Employment, Recruiting, Wages, and Capital Spending


Employment:


  • 33 percent of CEOs expect to expand their workforce over the next 12 months, down slightly from 35 percent in Q1.

  • 21 percent of CEOs expect a reduction in their workforce, down from 23 percent.


Hiring Qualified People:


  • 31 percent of CEOs report some problems attracting qualified workers, but only in key areas, unchanged from last quarter.

  • Only 12 percent report serious and/or widespread problems attracting qualified workers, down from 15 percent in Q1.


Wages:


  • 75 percent of CEOs expect to increase wages by 3 percent or more over the next year, up from 72 percent in Q1.


Capital Spending:


  • Most CEOs are not planning to revise capital spending plans (64 percent).

  • 21 percent of CEOs expect their capital budgets to increase over the next year, down from 28 percent last quarter.


US Recession


Most US CEOs no longer anticipate a recession in the coming year.


Interest Rates


In the April survey, CEOs anticipated that the Fed would implement two or fewer interest rate cuts within the year.


Industry Risks


CEOs identified the top risks impacting their industries as cyber threats, followed by geopolitical instability, and legal and regulatory uncertainty.

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