CEO Optimism Drops Slightly, PwC Study Shows

Less than half of 250 chief executives at privately-held U.S. companies expressed optimism about economic growth in the next 12 months, according to recently released survey results from PricewaterhouseCooper's Private Company Trendsetter Barometer.

The percentage of U.S. chief executives in the survey voicing optimism about the economy dropped from 51 percent in the first quarter to 45 percent in the second quarter, but remained 11 points higher than at the same point last year, PwC said.

"Although we continue to emerge from the downturn, political and economic uncertainty may linger for some time," said Ken Esch, a PwC partner.

"That uncertainty isn't keeping Trendsetter CEOs from pursuing growth opportunities, but it does reinforce the need to carefully manage against ongoing market and regulatory risks," he said.

In spite of the unease over the economy, 76 percent of private companies in the PwC study said that they expect positive sales growth in the next year, with 38 percent anticipating double-digit growth and 38 percent expecting single-digit growth, according to survey findings.

On average, chief executives in the survey forecast an average 9.1 percent growth in sales for their companies in the coming 12 months, a 1 percent dip from the previous quarter's prediction.

About 78 percent of the survey's respondents pointed to concerns over lack of demand as a primary barrier to growth followed by questions of taxation, PwC said.

"Private company CEOs are keeping a close eye on how state, federal and foreign governments continue to deal with the downturn," Esch said.

About 54 percent of the study's participants said that they plan to hire new employees in the next 12 months while only 2 percent expect a workforce reduction, PwC said.

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