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Global CEOs lack confidence in 2013

By Ramy Inocencio, for CNN
January 24, 2013 -- Updated 0641 GMT (1441 HKT)
  • Confidence of global CEOs falls for second year in row, says auditing firm PwC
  • Only 36% of global CEOs feel "very confident" headed into 2013
  • CEOs in Western Europe, North America, Asia, Africa less confident in short-term growth
  • Only CEOs in Latin America saw slight rise in confidence

Hong Kong (CNN) -- For the second year in a row, the confidence of global CEOs in their company's growth has fallen, according to the 16th Global CEO Survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the global auditing firm.

Only 36% of CEOs surveyed around the world feel "very confident" headed into 2013. CEO confidence has been steadily eroding the past two years; in 2011, 48% of CEOs surveyed were very confident, sliding to 40% last year.

"I was actually surprised this year. I would have said that I think things are getting better," said PwC's Chairman Dennis Nally in an interview with CNN's Richard Quest.

"I think Europe is getting better. I think the issues in the United States are getting better. We avoided the fiscal cliff. I think you saw growth rates coming out of China in the fourth quarter which are much more positive than what many had predicted so I would have been, quite frankly, more optimistic than what our survey results suggest."

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The PwC report, released at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, also found that just more than half -- 52% -- of CEOs surveyed thought the 2013 global economic environment would stay the same, up four points from 2012. More than one in four believe it will deteriorate; less than 20% think it will improve.

"I would sum it up by saying I think we're in a period which is a stubborn recovery," says Nally. "Many have said that this recovery should have been more fast-paced."

That sentiment is nearly ubiquitous for short-term growth around the world, according to the PwC survey, with CEOs in North America, Asia-Pacific and Africa all registering falls in confidence -- most with double-digit percentage drops. Only Latin American CEOs saw their confidence rise.

Western European CEOs were the least confident of all -- just 22% were "very confident of growth", down from 39% in 2011.

"I think Europe has done a great job over the last six months managing its way through the crisis," says PwC's Nally. (But) they're not out of it yet."

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