CEO Economic Outlook Survey: Tempered Optimism; Now, Trade and Tax Reform | Business Roundtable

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CEO Economic Outlook Survey: Tempered Optimism; Now, Trade and Tax Reform

Mar 3, 2015

Business Roundtable today released its CEO Economic Outlook Survey for the first quarter of 2015, with BRT Chairman Randall Stephenson of AT&T briefing reporters via a conference call on the results. Shorthand version: The U.S. economy is trending upwards, but we could still do better, especially if Washington got busy enacting Trade Promotion Authority, business tax reform, infrastructure investment and smarter, less burdensome regulation.

A question added to the survey showed CEOs' widespread agreement that expanded trade would boost their companies' global sales and competitiveness.

For the news release, please go here. The full survey is available here

News coverage was solid. A selection:

Reuters, "U.S. CEOs modestly more upbeat on economy, spending -survey":

U.S. chief executive officers are modestly more upbeat about the economy and almost half plan to increase capital spending over the next six months, a quarterly business group survey said on Tuesday.

CEOs expect U.S. gross domestic product to rise by 2.8 percent this year, compared to a projection of a 2.4 percent increase a quarter earlier, according to the first-quarter survey by the Business Roundtable. ...

"The U.S. economy and the job outlook are starting the year in a stronger position than 2014," said Randall Stephenson, chairman of Business Roundtable and CEO of AT&T Inc.

Los Angeles Times, "Top CEOs have best sales expectations in three years, survey says":

The passage by Congress in December of a one-year extension of $45 billion in tax breaks, mostly for businesses, that had expired at the end of 2013 helped boost the confidence of chief executives to open their corporate checkbooks, Stephenson said.

The survey results show that a "wave of capital investment" would come if the White House and Congress can agree on business tax reform that would lower the overall U.S. corporate rate, he said.

"There is probably nothing that will move this economy forward and drive capital investment faster than tax reform," Stephenson said.

Marketwatch, "AT&T’s Stephenson says Washington holding economy back":

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson says an improved economy is boosting U.S. wages, but he also insists inaction in Washington is holding back the nation’s growth.

Stephenson, who doubles as chairman of the Business Roundtable, urged lawmakers on Tuesday to pass bills to encourage free trade, reduce corporate taxes, relax certain immigration laws and avert unnecessary rules such as a decision to regulate the Internet under a government law first created in the 1930s.

“Absent some fundamental shift,” he indicated, the United States is unlikely to return consistently to its historic growth rate (3.3% annual average since 1929). 

Associated Press, "Business Roundtable: Trade would increase hiring of US workers"

The group's survey of 120 executives found that more than half of them — 54 per cent — said trade would allow them to boost their employment in the United States. ...

"When you think about those issues that are ripe for being dealt with in this Congress, to us it seems the most likely issue is trade," said Business Roundtable Chairman Randall Stephenson, the chairman and chief executive of AT&T. "There seems to be broad bipartisan support for passing trade promotion authority for the president, the president himself is engaged and believes this is important as well."

In a conference call with reporters, Stephenson said the group would lobby for Congress to grant Obama so-called "fast track" authority in the first half of this year. He cautioned that delaying until later in the year ran the risk of getting overtaken by 2016 election year politics.

More coverage ...

UPDATE (5:10 p.m.):