US CEOs are the most bullish in the world
Even after a harsh winter, corporate bosses plan to create more jobs and spend more money on equipment and resources, a new survey says.
If the perception of U.S. CEO confidence were to be ranked in classic album terms, Led Zeppelin's "The Song Remains the Same" would have topped the charts at No. 1 for a 15-month run.
But the latest YPO survey of CEOs indicates that business leaders in the United States are now humming out loud to the likes of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good."
After stagnating within a tight 3-point range since mid-2012, the YPO Global Pulse Confidence Index shows a high level of optimism among U.S, executives, even amid potentially worrisome economic data published during the harsh winter months.
Confidence rose again in the April survey, to 63.7, making the United States the most optimistic region in the world for the first time since YPO began tracking CEO sentiment.
Emerging data seems to back up what CEOs are telling us. With initial unemployment claims at a seven-year low and gains in non-farm employment flirting with 200,000 per month, the economy is finally creating jobs at the same pace it was prior to the 2008 recession. Among the 970 U.S. CEOs surveyed in April, 41 percent said they intended to hire more workers over the next 12 months, about the same percentage that said so in January.
Encouragingly, manufacturing capacity utilization rates are at a level that demands heightened levels of capital spending from CEOs. Sure enough, almost half -- 46 percent -- of the CEOs surveyed said they intended to step up fixed investments in the coming quarters.
Moreover, conditions are ripe for consumer spending, which generates 70 percent of U.S. GDP. The 180 percent increase in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX) from its March 2009 nadir and the burgeoning housing market should be enticing consumers to spend via the "wealth effect." These same consumers have materially reduced their debt loads since 2007 and are at a point whereby they might actually be willing to open their wallets.
How the Fed, VCs factor in CEO outlook
All of this data comes with psychological support from the Fed. After all, Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen has made it crystal clear that monetary conditions will continue to focus on accommodation until we see the inflation rate approach 2.0 percent -- currently at 1.1 percent -- and an unemployment rate of about 5.5 percent, currently 6.7 percent.
Matching CEO confidence, venture capitalists dramatically increased their investments in the first quarter of 2014. Yes, those same "crazy" VCs who are paying questionably high multiples for a seat at the table of some of America's fastest-growing companies.
In fact, according to the latest MoneyTree report, VCs invested $9.5 billion into 951 U.S.-based companies last quarter, 12 percent higher than the previous quarter and the highest dollar amount invested in early-stage companies since the second quarter of 2011.
It seems as though we are finally seeing the groundswell of confidence from the business community needed to kickstart our economy. Now there's a song worth playing.
The quarterly electronic survey, conducted in the first two weeks of April, gathered answers from 1,996 chief executive officers across the globe,including 970 in the United States. Visit www.ypo.org/globalpulse for more information about the survey methodology and results from around the world.
CNBC and YPO (Young Presidents' Organization) have an exclusive editorial partnership. It consists of regional Chief Executive Networks in the Americas, EMEA and Asia-Pacific. The opinions of Chief Executive Network members are solely their own and do not reflect the opinions of YPO as a whole or CNBC.
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Stocks drift lower and bonds are hit as investors await the Fed. Prepare for higher volatility this week.
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