Chief Executive Officers Plan to Boost Hiring, Spending in U.S.

Chief executive officers plan to increase capital spending and hiring over the next six months as they turned more optimistic about the U.S. economy, a survey showed.

The Business Roundtable’s economic outlook index increased to 96.9 in the first quarter from 77.9 in the previous three months, the Washington-based trade group reported today. Readings greater than 50 are consistent with economic expansion, and this quarter’s measure is the highest since April-June 2011.

Eighty-one percent of business leaders expect sales to rise in the next six months, up from 68 percent in the previous quarter. An increase in capital spending is projected by 48 percent of respondents, up from 32 percent.

Forty-two percent said they will increase payrolls, compared with 35 percent in the prior quarter, while 43 percent plan to hold their staffing levels steady.

The survey, taken March 1-19, represented the responses of 128 company leaders. The Business Roundtable is an association of chief executives of corporations with a combined workforce of more than 14 million employees and more than $6 trillion in annual revenue.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lorraine Woellert in Washington at schandra1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net

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