Feb 8, 2024 - Economy

CEO confidence rises to its highest level in two years

Data: The Conference Board; Note: A number above 50 indicates more positivity; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: The Conference Board; Note: A number above 50 indicates more positivity; Chart: Axios Visuals

For the first time in two years, CEOs are optimistic about the economy, according to a survey out Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: CEOs, they're just like us ... Overall consumer confidence also hit a two-year high in January.

  • The improvements have much to do with the booming stock market, declining inflation rate and low unemployment.

The big picture: As the 2024 presidential election comes into view, all eyes are on Americans' economic vibes.

  • Positive views about the economy have been hard to come by during the Biden years. And an improvement in the national mood could lead to more support for his re-election, and make it harder for his opponent to argue that the economy is in bad shape.
  • That said, his likely opponent, former President Trump, recently took credit for the stock market's gains. "Investors are projecting I will win," he wrote on his social network.

How they did it: To come up with this measure, The Conference Board and The Business Council surveyed 138 Fortune 500 CEOs in January, asking about current economic conditions and their expectations about the future.

  • 32% said general economic conditions are better compared with six months ago — up from 18% in the last quarter of 2023.
  • Only 27% said they expected economic conditions to get worse over the next six months — down from 47%.

Of note: Separately, CEOs were asked to identify the biggest business challenge in the U.S. this year. The overwhelming majority pointed to the upcoming elections. Globally, the answer was the spread of existing wars.

Between the lines: Investment bankers keep an eye on measures like these because when the CEOs are feeling good, they're more apt to get into some deal-making.

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