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September 2014: CEOs Offer Highest Confidence Rating in 7 Years

The CEO Confidence Index, Chief Executive’s monthly gauge of CEOs’ expectations for business conditions over the next 12 months, registered a 7-year-high in September 2014.

Confidence levels for one year out are up 5.3% in September with a ranking of 6.44 out of 10, compared with 6.11 in August. Respondents rated current, overall business conditions as 6.18 compared with a 5.88 rating in August, an increase of 5.2%.

“Our economy is gradually improving due to increased energy production in the U.S., which is helping reduce our deficit.”

The trend in confidence levels for 2014 has been encouraging, with ratings hovering around or exceeding 6.0. However, CEOs are cautiously optimistic about the future. September figures confirm a gradual, slow-growth outlook, with 46.3 percent of CEOs surveyed predicting either no growth or growth of less than 10 percent for the coming year.

Interestingly, nearly 50% of all CEOs surveyed indicated confidence levels between 7 and 10, with only 12% listing levels of 4 or less. “Our economy is gradually improving due to increased energy production in the U.S., which is helping reduce our deficit,” said one CEO respondent.

Regarding CEO views on growth prospects, some executives cited the government’s failure to invest in infrastructure. As one CEO said, “The U.S. Congress is failing to show leadership in the critical area of infrastructure investment in transportation and public utility infrastructure–water, [sanitation], drainage and public buildings.” He also stated that the nation’s aging infrastructure warrants more than mere maintenance.

Adding some uncertainty to CEO mindsets is the ongoing threat to global business interests from geo-political terrorism, particularly in the Middle East. Some 53.8 percent of the CEOs cited terrorism as a concern. “I am concerned that the ISIS
phenomenon will soon affect global business in a severe way,” said one CEO. “They seem intent on disruption.”

In the wake of the 2008 economic meltdown, confidence levels were a roller coaster ride, dipping below 2.0 and spiking to nearly 6.0 between 2009 and 2010. The volatility of the rankings reflected a prevailing mood of uncertainty.

However, confidence levels in January 2009 were up a staggering 31.8% from December 2008. But by February 2009, confidence fell off a cliff and dipped some 26 percent compared with the previous month. A low rating of 1.54 for
the one-year outlook in February 2009 was followed by wild spikes throughout 2009 and 2010. In 2011, a gentle rolling upward trend began, and today, CEO confidence levels reflect less volatility.


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