(Reuters) - U.S. chief executives’ view of the economy brightened in the first quarter of 2012, with a growing number planning to hire more workers and invest more in capital equipment, according to a survey by the Business Roundtable.
The group’s CEO Economic Outlook Index rose to 96.9 in the first quarter from 77.9 in the 2011 fourth quarter, the largest improvement in confidence since the third quarter of 2009, the group said on Wednesday.
CEOs of large companies have become more likely to hire additional workers and boost capital spending over the past three months, with 42 percent looking to add staff and 48 percent expecting to boost spending, the group said.
The survey found 81 percent expect their company’s sales to rise in the next six months.
The findings come at the end of a quarter that saw Wall Street gain confidence that the U.S. recovery from recession was gaining steam, sending the Standard & Poor’s 500 index .SPX up nearly 12 percent over the past three months.
The survey of 128 CEOs was conducted March 1-19. Business Roundtable member companies generate $6 trillion in annual revenue and employ more than 14 million people.
Reporting By Scott Malone; editing by John Wallace