Business Roundtable: Growth Slower Than Previous Recoveries

Factoring in Fed tapering, Ukraine crisis, CEOs predict slow growth.

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America’s GDP may grow 2.4 percent during 2014, a group of 122 CEOs responded during a survey published on Wednesday, which is “much slower than we have seen in past recoveries,” said Randall Stephenson, chairman of the Business Roundtable policy group that conducted the quarterly survey.

This growth expectation is a slight uptick from the previous Economic Outlook Survey conducted during the fourth quarter, which predicted 2.2 percent GDP growth.

[READ: This Jobs Recovery Is Actually Stronger Than the Last One]

Sales will likely increase in the next six months, according to 72 percent of CEOs surveyed, but only 37 percent of executives responded that they would likely add U.S. employees during the next six months. Fewer than half predicted they would invest more in the U.S. during the next six months, according to the survey.

Business Roundtable surveyed the chief executives between Feb. 21 and March 7, shortly after Russia began its occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea region. The crisis in Ukraine is a concern for businesses with investments and trade plans in Europe, but most CEOs took a “business as usual approach,” to the survey when factoring in tensions with Russia, said Stephenson, who is also chief executive of AT&T Inc.

“It’s obviously a major concern, we are watching it very closely,” he said during a conference call.

More than 70 percent of the CEOs said expanded U.S. trade opportunities would have a positive effect on their businesses, and 42 percent surveyed increased global trade would allow them to hire more workers.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will host her first policymaking meeting as head of the central bank on Wednesday, but CEOs in the survey expected the Fed to continue reducing its bond purchases as the economy improves, Stephenson said

“The 2.4 percent growth anticipates a continued tapering,” Stephenson said.

[ALSO: Retail Sales Beat Expectations in February]

Approximately 89 percent of CEOs said regulation has had either a moderately significant or very significant material impact on their investment and hiring activities, so the Business Roundtable is calling for “a light regulatory touch” from the Obama administration as it affects business.

The group of CEOs was pleased by the increased sense of fiscal stability brought by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, which was negotiated by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Despite gridlock in Congress Stephenson pressed for more action on legislation in 2014 to reform taxes and immigration to increase opportunities for hiring.

“I am not prepared to concede that there will be no legislative action this year,” Stephenson said.