Chief executives' confidence in the nation's economy, which had slipped to 66 in the final quarter of 2003, surged to 73 in the first quarter of 2004, The Conference Board reported today. This is the highest reading in 20 years, when the measure reached 74 in the final quarter of 1983. A reading of more than 50 points reflects more positive than negative responses. The Conference Board's quarterly measure of CEO Confidence covers more than 100 CEOs in a wide variety of industries. "CEO confidence has surged to its highest level in 20 years," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board's Consumer Research Center. "Half of all CEOs surveyed anticipate an increase in hiring plans over the course of the year, suggesting labor market growth should gain momentum in the months ahead." CEOs' overall assessment of current conditions improved dramatically in the first quarter of 2004, with the measure of current economic conditions increasing to 78 from 68. More than 90 percent of CE...
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