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CEOs see the upside

NEW YORK — The nation's chief executives grew modestly more bullish about the outlook for the U.S. economy during the first quarter of the 2005, and The Conference Board's quarterly gauge of CEO confidence inched up to a reading of 62, after falling to a level of 61 during the closing quarter of last year.

The business think tank's survey shows that CEOs’ assessment of current conditions improved over the last quarter. About 59 percent said current economic conditions have improved, up from 53 during the fourth quarter of 2004. Assessing the prospects for their own industries, close to 57 percent said business conditions are better this quarter, up from about 46 percent the preceding quarter.

But CEOs’ more jaundiced view of the short-term outlook "has not changed dramatically," The Conference Board reported.About 43 percent of business leaders expect economic conditions to improve in the coming months, down from 50 percent last quarter. Expectations for their own industries were also more subdued, with 47 percent anticipating an improvement, down from 52 percent the previous quarter. At the same time, fewer CEOs expect conditions, both economic and in their own industries, to worsen over the next six months.

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