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Chief Executive Officers in U.S. Project 2012 Growth of 2%

The economy in the U.S. will expand 2 percent in 2012, restrained by concerns about a possible recession in Europe and America’s budget deficit, a survey of chief executive officers showed.

The Business Roundtable’s economic outlook index was little changed at 77.9 this quarter after 77.6 in the previous three months, the Washington-based group said today. Readings higher than 50 are consistent with economic expansion.

Sixty-eight percent of chief executives, an increase of 3 percentage points from the previous quarter, said they expect sales to rise in the next six months. There was little change in plans for capital spending and employment.

“We continue to see strengthened fundamentals in American business but it’s combined with a slow, uneven recovery,” Jim McNerney, chairman of the Business Roundtable and chief executive officer of Boeing Co., said on a conference call today.

Thirty-five percent of survey respondents said they will increase payrolls, compared with 36 percent in the prior quarter, while 42 percent plan to hold their staffing levels steady, up from 40 percent in the prior survey.

‘Not Fast Enough’

“We’re right at the point where the economy is growing, but not fast enough to offset productivity and create more jobs,” McNerney said in response to a question about hiring.

Almost 50 percent of the CEOs in the survey said their greatest cost pressures came from expenses for raw materials and regulatory compliance.

The survey, taken from Oct. 31 to Nov. 18, represented the responses of 130 company leaders. The Business Roundtable is an association of CEOs of corporations representing a combined workforce of more than 14 million employees and exceeding $6 trillion in annual revenue.

The results are similar to a Bloomberg News survey from Dec. 2 to Dec. 8 in which the median estimate of 69 economists projected the world’s largest economy will grow 2.1 percent next year.

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