Economy Watch: Chief Executives More Upbeat; Architects Less Busy in December

The nation’s CEOs are somewhat more confident about their businesses’ prospects than they used to be. But the December Architecture Billings Index score contracted to 48.5 from 49.8 in November.

The nation’s CEOs are somewhat more confident about their businesses’ prospects than they used to be, according to annual PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of more than 1,300 chief executives, which was released on Wednesday. The survey found that 39 percent were “very confident” that their company’s revenues would grow this year, inching up from 36 percent a year ago, but still lower than the pre-recession years, when generally more than half were “very confident.”

The head honchos were also more optimistic about macroeconomic prospects. Some 44 percent said they believe the global economy will improve in the next 12 months. That’s a considerable spike from last year, when only 18 percent said so.

Looking further ahead, a whopping 86 percent of the CEO respondents believe that “advancing technologies” are going to transform their businesses in the next first years. The chief executives are especially mindful of how tech intersects with other industries, such as healthcare and retail, to create new hybrid industries, according to the survey.

Architects Less Busy in December 

The American Institute of Architects reported on Wednesday that — following consistently increasing demand for design services throughout most of 2013 — its Architecture Billings Index posted its first consecutive months of contraction since May and June of 2012. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the index reflects the roughly nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending.

The December Architecture Billings Index score was 48.5, down from 49.8 in November. This score reflects a decrease in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 59.2, up from a reading of 57.8 in November.

“What we thought last month was an isolated dip now bears closer examination to see what is causing the slowdown in demand for architectural services,” AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, said in a statement. “It is possible that some of this can be attributed to the anxiety in the marketplace caused by the shutdown of the federal government, but it will be important to see how business conditions fare through the first quarter of the new year.”

Wall Street had another mixed day on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 41.1 points, or 0.25 percent. The S&P 500 was up 0.06 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 0.41 percent.