Survey: CEOs' economic optimism hits highest level since 2009

Survey: CEOs' economic optimism hits highest level since 2009
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Economic optimism among the nation’s top business leaders jumped to its highest level since 2009 on promises by the Trump administration to slash regulations and overhaul the tax code, according to a survey released Tuesday.

CEOs are upbeat about hiring, investment and sales over for the next six months, with the latest January to March quarter index rising 19.1 points to 93.3 from the 74.2 posted in the final three months of last year, the Business Roundtable’s (BRT) economic outlook poll said. 

Joshua Bolten, president and CEO of BRT, said that it is "hard to say exactly what the components of the increased optimism are."

"But certainly a big part of it has to be the political environment here in Washington," Bolten said on a media call with reporters.

"The Trump administration, the congressional leadership are promoting an agenda that our CEOs see as very positive," he said. 

President Trump applauded the poll on Twitter, promising "the results" of his White House will more than live up to the hype.

Before they reform the tax code, however, Trump and congressional Republicans are first trying to repeal and replace ObamaCare but face headwinds from within their own party. 

Despite the slow progress on the GOP's first priority, Bolten said he is optimistic that the White House and lawmakers will move forward on their economic agenda, which includes regulatory and tax changes on top of repealing the health insurance law. 

"We don't think the hopes will be dashed," Bolten said. "There's obviously a lot of turbulence around the healthcare act, but the other elements on the agenda we think are well on track."

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For the first time in seven quarters, the optimism index is above its historical average of 79.8. The highest level in the past decade hit 113 in the January-March period of 2011. 

“I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to enact a meaningful pro-growth agenda that will benefit all Americans," said Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase and chairman of BRT.

Dimon said that businesses would argue that the United States can grow at a faster rate than the 2.2 percent pace the CEOs have projected for this year with the right policy around tax, regulatory and infrastructure. 

"This country can do better, so we're not believers that somehow we're stuck in low-growth. ... We just need good policies at this point. Good policies good for all Americans, not just for big companies," he said.

CEO plans for hiring increased by 18 points from the previous quarter, while expectations for sales and capital expenditures increased by 21 points and 18.4 points, respectively, over the previous quarter.

In a special question posed this quarter, 79 percent of the responding CEOs identified tax reform, at 52 percent, and regulatory reforms, at 27 percent, as the two best ways to boost their company’s growth.

The third priority was infrastructure at 15 percent.