For CEOs, at least, US looking better than China

Corporate New York skyline
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

For the first time in five years, corporate heads like the U.S. more than China.

CEOs responding to an annual survey from PwC said a growing American economy is providing reason to keep money there rather than ship it to more robust economies around the globe.

Results indicate that the U.S. is the first choice for 38 percent of the corporate chieftains, compared to 34 percent for China. That's a turnaround and then some from results back to 2011, when the survey showed 39 percent of investors preferring China to a meager 21 percent for the U.S.

"As the U.S. recovery gains traction, it is gaining more adherents. Challenges remain, yet key measures of U.S. economic health are improving," a narrative accompanying the study said. "Business hopes are building that the American consumer market will start firing on more than one piston in 2015."

At stake is a share of the $1.7 trillion expected in global foreign direct investment for 2015. In recent years, a large share of that money in terms of investment compared to gross domestic product has found its way into developing nations such as the BRICs—Brazil, Russia, India and China—with the trend away from lumbering economies like the U.S.

According to the United Nations, the U.S. led the world in foreign direct investment with $338 million in 2013—the most recent year for which data were available—but was a laggard when that total was compared with GDP.

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However, the PwC survey found CEOs less interested in developing nations and more fixated on traditional global leaders like the U.S., Germany and the U.K.

"Actions U.S. CEOs are planning for 2015 show how U.S. businesses are being positioned for this new era where growth in their important markets balance more evenly between developed and developing economies, and where mainstream adoption rates for digital technologies everywhere are surging," the survey reported.

More optimism from the CEOs is evident in 67 percent of U.S. respondents believing there are more growth opportunities now than three years ago.

However, they acknowledge some challenges ahead.

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The biggest worry among both global and U.S. CEOs is over-regulation, with cyberthreats coming in second and fiscal policy regarding debts and deficits third.