JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A closely-watched index of CEO hiring, sales and spending plans declined again, according to a survey of some of the biggest corporations in the U.S. by Business Roundtable, their trade group.

Why it matters: The survey has shown declining optimism for almost two years. As we get closer to the 2020 election, the record-high CEO optimism levels that peaked during Trump’s presidency have now vanished — largely thanks to trade war uncertainty.

Details: CEOs are “cautious in the face of uncertainty over trade policy and an associated slowdown in global growth and the U.S. manufacturing sector,“ Business Roundtable points out. The survey was conducted prior to reports of progress with USMCA and a potential delay in another round of tariffs on Chinese imports.

  • CEO plans for hiring and capital appending — two key drivers of economic growth — fell quarter over quarter.
  • Expectations for sales growth, though, increased.

What they’re saying: “There has been progress in several policy areas that has strengthened the U.S. economy from top to bottom—but more progress needs to be made on free and fair trade agreements,” Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan CEO and chairman of Business Roundtable said in a press release.

  • “CEOs are justified in their caution about the state of the U.S. economy. While we have achieved a competitive tax environment, uncertainty surrounding trade policy and slowing global growth are creating headwinds for business,” said Joshua Bolten, Business Roundtable’s CEO.

The bottom line: While recession fears have abated for now, the results reflect the corporate America’s pessimism about the future of the economy — which could impact hiring and spending decisions.

Go deeper: U.S. economy surprises with 266,000 new jobs in November

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