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Survey: Optimism among U.S. business leaders up sharply in first quarter

Hiring expectations in U.S. above global average, with 29% of business leaders predicting growth in the coming year.
By Modern Materials Handling Staff
April 17, 2013

On the heels of a pessimistic outlook during the fourth quarter of 2012, US business leaders show signs of increased optimism in the performance of the nation’s economy according to the latest data from the Grant Thornton International Business Report, a survey of 3,200 business leaders in 44 countries. In first quarter 2013, optimism among US business leaders rose from -4% to 31%.

This finding accompanies IBR data that reveals an improvement in sentiment about most areas of business performance and stability. The net percent balance of US business leaders expecting revenues to increase in 2013 rose by eight percentage points from the fourth quarter. In addition, profitability expectations rose sharply in first quarter 2013, up 14 percentage points from the previous quarter. Encouragingly, hiring expectations in the United States remain above the global average. A net balance of 29% of business leaders in the United States foresee an increase in hiring during the coming year, a four-percentage point increase from the previous quarter and five percentage points above the global average.

“With the fiscal cliff and presidential election behind us, the anxiety has seemingly lessened among business executives,” said Stephen Chipman, chief executive officer of Grant Thornton LLP. “While uncertainty is still present, it’s encouraging to see such a large increase in optimism among the nation’s business leaders—particularly when it comes to employment, which is key to US economic health.”

The increase in optimism in the US economy is on par with what is occurring in other markets, with global business optimism up to its highest level since early 2011. Globally, a net balance of 27% of businesses are optimistic about the economic outlook, up from just 4% the previous quarter. Following the United States, the next two largest economies in the world also saw sentiment improve. China business optimism rose from a net balance of 19% to 29% while Japan saw a major increase in optimism, from a net balance of -70% to -2%.

Still, there are some areas for improvement. Despite a modest uptick from the previous quarter, few US businesses plan to invest in research and development in 2013, with a net balance of only 12% expecting an increase during the next 12 months. In addition, 36% of US business leaders cite regulations and red tape as the number one factor stopping them from growing their operations in the next 12 months

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