CEOs Reacting to Trump Win with a Dose of Caution

A Business Roundtable poll of 142 CEOs shows Trump’s election has indeed boosted their confidence levels, with the peer group’s fourth-quarter economic outlook index rising to 74.2 points, up from 69.6 in the third quarter. The index, though, remains below its historical average of 79.6.

And while CEO expectations for sales and hiring have both increased since last month’s election result, their expectations for capital spending have fallen.

“America’s business leaders are encouraged by president-elect Trump’s pledge to boost economic growth,” said Business Roundtable Chairman Doug Oberhelman, CEO of Caterpillar, who will step down at the end of the year.

“We will work with the incoming administration and Congress to enact pro-growth policies.

“We will work with the incoming administration and Congress to enact pro-growth policies such as modernizing the U.S. tax system, adopting a smarter approach to regulation, investing in infrastructure and focusing on the education and training people need to thrive in the 21st century economy.”

Some CEOs aren’t sure if Trump will follow through on all of his campaign pledges. On healthcare, for example, the president-elect said he may keep some parts of the Affordable Care Act rather than scrapping it entirely. Business leaders including Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett have also questioned whether Trump will impose a 45% tariff in Chinese imports, given the potentially inflationary impact on the economy.

It’s still unclear how Trump will fund promised infrastructure spending, particularly if government tax receipts fall, and he has indicated some parts of his proposed wall along the Mexican border could instead comprise fencing.

Of all the challenges ahead for the new administration, providing more details on how it will lighten regulation could be the best way for it to boost business confidence. For the fifth year in a row, Business Roundtable found that regulation was selected by CEOs as their top cost pressure, followed by labor and healthcare costs.

“We are encouraged by the promise of a renewed focus to usher in a smarter regulatory environment that promotes job creation and economic growth and also protects safety, health and the environment,” Oberhelman said.

The survey results chime with Chief Executive’s most recent CEO Confidence Index, which jumped by 10.8% to 6.54 mark out of 10 immediately after Trump’s victory.

Ross Kelly
Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.

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