U.S. CEO Confidence Jumps in Latest YPO Global Pulse Survey

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Hiring outlook improves to highest level in the history of the survey

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The Index declined in both the third and fourth quarters of 2011, but in recent months, it has become clear that GDP growth accelerated toward the end of the year, softening fears of a double dip and fanning optimism among business leaders.

The YPO Global Pulse Index for the United States rebounded sharply in the fourth quarter of 2011, climbing 4.5 points to 62.2. The latest survey results also suggest that a faster pace of hiring may be forthcoming: the YPO Employment Confidence Index for the United States rose 1.5 points to 59.8, the highest reading since YPO began measuring CEO sentiment in July 2009.

After lagging the YPO Global Index in every quarter since the survey began, the United States weighed in above the global reading for the first time. Expectations about sales, headcounts and capital spending all climbed higher in the fourth quarter, suggesting that U.S. CEOs seem to anticipate a moderate pace of economic expansion during the coming 12 months.

The survey results were announced today by YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization), a not-for-profit global network of 19,000 chief executive officers. The YPO Global Pulse is the only CEO economic sentiment survey to span the globe on a quarterly basis, capturing answers from more than 2,000 CEOs representing companies of all sizes around the world.

Key findings
Economy strengthened in the second half of 2011. When asked about their assessment of the economy today versus six months ago, 43% of reporting CEOs said the overall conditions affecting their businesses had improved in the past six months, compared with 27% who held that view in the previous quarter. The reported improvement in economic conditions was widespread, with firms of all sizes in all sectors – production, construction and services – experiencing the upswing.

More than half expect economy to improve. When asked about their assessment of economic conditions six months from now compared with today, respondents’ outlook was even brighter. In this case, 51% expected the economy to improve over the next six months, compared with 30% who thought so last quarter. Moreover, only 8% thought economic conditions would deteriorate during that period of time, whereas in the prior quarter, 25% thought that would be the case. Once again, firms across all industries and of all sizes had a roughly similar economic outlook.

Sales outlook grows more favorable. Looking ahead 12 months, CEOs anticipated a robust sales pace. The YPO Sales Confidence Index climbed 3 points to the relatively lofty level of 67.8, just short of the 68.9 peak recorded in the first quarter of last year.

Outlook for capital spending improves. The YPO Fixed Investment Confidence Index for the United States followed the same positive pattern, rising 2.3 points to 60.5. This series had declined in each of the two previous quarters but then recovered much of what it lost by the January 2012 survey.

Commentary
“The Index declined in both the third and fourth quarters of 2011, but in recent months, it has become clear that GDP growth accelerated toward the end of the year, softening fears of a double dip and fanning optimism among business leaders,” said Alan Zafran, managing partner of California-based investment adviser Luminous Capital and a member of YPO’s Global One Chapter.

Stephen Slifer, YPO Global Pulse economic adviser and chief economist at NumberNomics, said, “The rising optimism seen in the latest YPO survey is consistent with recent economic reports indicating that the U.S. economy has finally begun to crank out a respectable number of new jobs. In addition, the upswing in optimism was almost certainly bolstered by indicators that the housing sector has finally begun to emerge from the doldrums.”

Global results
After declining for three straight quarters, the YPO Global Confidence Index rebounded in the fourth quarter of 2011, climbing 3.2 points to 61.2. Confidence was up in every region except Middle East/North Africa, non-EU Europe and Asia. It was largely buoyed by the Americas, where confidence levels jumped more than 4 points in Canada, Latin America and the United States. For the first time since the YPO survey began, Asia landed below the global reading and the United States came in above it. Confidence rose marginally in the European Union, but the region continues to be the global laggard.

YPO Global Pulse Confidence Index
The YPO Global Pulse Confidence Index combines CEO answers about expected and most-recent-quarter sales, employee numbers, fixed investment and business conditions. The Index is centered on 50. An Index reading below 50 indicates a negative outlook – the lower the number, the more negative the outlook. A reading above 50 indicates a positive outlook – the higher the number, the more positive the outlook.

Survey methodology
The quarterly electronic survey, conducted in the first two weeks of January 2012, gathered answers from 2,157 chief executive officers across the globe, including 1,166 in the United States. Globally, 27% of participants are from large companies (more than 500 employees), 38% from medium-sized companies (100-500 employees), and 35% from small companies (less than 100 employees). By business sector, 25% of participants are from the production sector, 9% from construction and 66% from the services sector. For more information, go to http://www.ypo.org/globalpulse.

About YPO
YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization) is a not-for-profit, global network of young chief executives connected around the shared mission of becoming Better Leaders Through Education and Idea ExchangeTM. Founded in 1950, YPO today provides 19,000 peers and their families in more than 110 countries with access to unique experiences, world-class resources, alliances with top learning institutions, and specialized Networks that help them enhance their business, community and personal leadership. Collectively, member-run companies generate US$6 trillion in annual revenues and employ more than 16 million people. For more information, visit http://www.ypo.org. See us also on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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Michèle Foster

Patrick Gallagher
Fahlgren Mortine Public Relations
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