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CEOs much more upbeat on rising sales, but few expect to boost hiring

December 8, 2009 | 12:03 pm

Chief executives of the biggest American companies see much more reason to be bullish about rising sales in 2010, a new survey shows.

Despite that optimism, most have no plans to increase U.S. hiring in the next six months.

The Business Roundtable’s quarterly CEO Economic Outlook survey, released today, shows that 68% of companies expect sales to rise in the next six months, compared with the 51% that projected higher sales in the group’s third-quarter survey.

The percentage of companies planning to boost capital spending also surged, to 40% from 21% in the previous survey.

But just 19% of CEOs said they expected to hire more U.S. workers in the next six months, only a modest improvement from the 13% that said so in third quarter survey.

Fifty percent of CEOs see their U.S. employment holding steady in the next six months; 31% expect to cut jobs.

The downbeat hiring outlook comes on the same day that President Obama is outlining new plans to spur job creation, including tax breaks for small businesses.

If nothing else, the jump in capital-spending expectations could be good news for technology companies, assuming that much of the spending is targeted at productivity-boosting tech equipment.

-- Tom Petruno