The second quarter 2018 CEO Economic Outlook survey by the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs finds that, compared to last quarter, Virginia CEOs’ expectations for sales increased, but expectations for capital spending fell. 

The survey’s index, which measures executives’ views on projected hiring, capital spending and sales over the next six months, fell to its lowest level since Q3 2016, marking declines for four of the past five quarters.

This quarter, CEOs were asked about the expected impact of new tariffs. None expect a large positive impact; roughly three percent expect a somewhat positive impact. More than 49 percent expect a somewhat negative impact; more than six percent expect a large negative impact. More than 41 percent expect no impact.

Nearly 72 percent of CEO respondents expect sales to increase over the next six months, up roughly four percentage points from the first quarter results. Nearly 38 percent expect sales to increase by more than 10 percentage points, up from the 26 percent who expected double-digit increases last quarter. About 15 percent expect sales to fall.

Expectations for capital spending fell from last quarter. More than 37 percent of CEOs expect capital spending to increase, down about four percentage points from last quarter. About 47 percent expect capital spending to remain flat, while the percentage who expected capital spending to decrease over the next six months fell by about eight percentage points from last quarter.

Expectations for employment were virtually unchanged from last quarter. Half of respondent CEOs expect employment to increase over the next six months; nearly 47 percent expect employment to remain flat; only about 5 percent of CEOs expect employment to decrease over the next six months.

The Robins School and VACEOs jointly conduct the quarterly survey, which helps Virginia companies anticipate business conditions and plan for growth. The Robins School adapted the survey from the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of American companies that conducts a similar survey nationally. Randy Raggio, associate dean at the Robins School, administers the survey and collects the responses each quarter. The survey has been administered quarterly since 2010.

The following survey results from the first quarter of 2018 and second quarter of 2018 show projections for the next six months for sales, spending and employment:

Projected 6 months sales, spending and employment

2018 Q2

2018 Q1

Increase

No Change

Decrease

Increase

No Change

Decrease

How do you expect your company’s sales to change in the next six months?

 71.9%

 17.2%

 10.9%

 67.5%

 24.7%

 6.5%

How do you expect your company’s U.S. capital spending to change in the next six months?

 37.5%

 46.9%

 4.7%

 41.6%

 45.5%

 13.0%

How do you expect your company’s U.S. employment to change in the next six months?

 50.0%

 46.9%

4.7%

 49.4%

 45.5%

5.2%

“The survey shows that CEOs are generally positive on the economy,” said Raggio. “The recent declines we have seen in the index reflect a shift from high growth to more stable growth. However, there is reason for concern related to tariffs.” 

“The outlook among small business CEOs in central Virginia remains strong, but unemployment below 3.5% is limiting the ability of many of these businesses to scale,” said Scot McRoberts, executive director of the Virginia Council of CEOs.

Economic Outlook Index

Survey Date

CEO Economic Outlook Index

Q2 2018

92.73

Q1 2018

94.6

Q4 2017

106.30

Q3 2017

99.17

Q2 2017

103.63

Q1 2017

108.97*

Q4 2016

107.37

Q3 2016

89.67

Q2 2016

89.00

Q1 2016

102.00

Q4 2015

92.67

Q3 2015

99.80

Q2 2015

93.42

Q1 2015

93.90

Q4 2014

95.92

Q3 2014

96.10

Q2 2014

88.71

Q1 2014

86.07

Q4 2013

89.57

Q3 2013

92.53

Q2 2013

91.60

Q1 2013

86.40

Q4 2012

77.57

Q3 2012

81.17

Q2 2012

81.13

Q1 2012

94.10

Q4 2011

88.63

Q3 2011

81.17

Q2 2011

74.17

Q1 2011

85.63

Q4 2010

 92.27

Q3 2010

 94.47

Q2 2010

 81.33

* Record high

The Virginia Council of CEOs is a nonprofit association whose mission is to connect the CEOs of small and mid-sized businesses for learning and growth. The Council is led by a volunteer board of directors, advisory board and a small staff. Currently, there are 228 CEO members. Sixty-four CEOs responded to the survey, which was administered June 26-July 3. Multiple industries are represented in the sample, including construction, manufacturing, finance and insurance and retail. The average company whose CEO responded to this survey had about $12 million in revenue for the most recent 12-month period. The average employment was about 46.

The Council continues to expand the survey beyond its members, offering any area business owners whose companies gross at least $1 million in annual revenue the opportunity to participate. If enough businesses participate, the Council will provide survey results by industry. Participation is free, and all participants will receive copies of the survey data.

Business owners and CEOs who would like to participate in the next survey should contact Scot McRoberts at smcroberts@vaceos.org.

The Virginia Council of CEOs is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to connect the CEOs of second-stage companies so they can learn from each other and grow their businesses. Learn more at www.vaceos.org.

The Robins School of Business is the only fully accredited, highly-ranked undergraduate business school that also is part of a highly-ranked liberal arts university. U.S. News ranks the Robins School’s part-time MBA program #44 in the country. The school’s executive education division offers open enrollment courses and customized leadership development, training and consulting to area businesses.

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