Only 30 percent of CEOs anticipate they will increase their investment in capital goods such as machinery, computers or other equipment. That's unchanged from the third quarter's survey, while 23 percent project a decline in capital investment, up from 19 percent in the previous quarter. Companies usually make capital investment when they are expanding.
The Roundtable combines CEOs' survey responses on sales, capital spending and hiring into an index gauging the executives' overall economic outlook. The latest index was 65.6, a slight dip from 66.0 in the third quarter, but down sharply from 89.1 in the second quarter.
An index reading lower than 50 is consistent with a shrinking economy, while a reading above 50 indicates the economy is expanding.
Even so, McNerney noted that the latest reading is at its lowest level since the third quarter of 2009, when the economy was just emerging from recession.
The Business Roundtable represents the CEOs of the 200 largest U.S. corporations. The survey results are based on 143 responses received between Nov. 12 and Nov. 30.