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Despite election chaos, CEOs keeping cool: Survey

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton shake hands at the conclusion of their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis on Oct. 9, 2016.
Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

Economic confidence among U.S. chief executive officers remained steady last quarter despite the tumultuous nature of the U.S. presidential election. U.S. CEO optimism was in lockstep with the global composite of chief executives, according to the latest YPO Global Pulse survey.

Despite the changes coming to Washington next year, U.S. business leaders remain upbeat about 2017 — nearly half of those surveyed expect the current economic climate to hold steady for at least the first half of the year and a third anticipate an improved environment.

The quarterly survey was conducted in early October, and it is unclear if the announcement by the FBI to review new emails related to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has put some chief executives on edge.

Small-business owners were the most bullish on the future economy, with 67 percent of respondents expecting increased revenue in the next 12 months versus their large firm counterparts, 55 percent of whom are expecting a boost in revenue.

"Despite uncertainty due to the U.S. presidential campaign, it's encouraging that business leaders remain optimistic about prospects for growth," said Steve Grubbs, founder of Victory Enterprises and regional communications officer for YPO's Central U.S. Region.

Confidence around the globe

Globally, the YPO Global Pulse Confidence Index fell just half a point to 59.2 last quarter, with the European Union, Australasia and the United States being the most confident regions in the world.

Despite the unexpected outcome of Brexit, confidence among business leaders in the EU bounced back this quarter by 2.2 points. This is due in part to the recognition by executives that the U.K. exit from the EU will take considerable time and that major changes are not likely to come to fruition until 2019.

Non-EU European executives were among the least confident in the world last quarter, falling 6.7 points to 51.8. The survey reported a decline in all of the countries in this region, with Turkey taking the worst hit, falling by 7.5 points, due to the failed July coup attempt.

A reading of more than 50 in the YPO Global Pulse Index indicates a positive outlook, while a reading below 50 indicates a negative outlook.

Economic confidence among executives in Asia eroded in the third quarter by almost three points. Regional confidence dipped due to a lack of optimism among the emerging economies of Southeast Asian nations.

The increased strength of the U.S. dollar was the main catalyst for Southeast Asia's 8-point drop. Since commodities are traded in dollars, manufacturers in the region have been hit with increased costs for raw materials.

Survey methodology: The quarterly online survey was conducted during the first two weeks of October 2016 among the active membership of YPO. Globally, 28 percent of participants were from large companies (more than 500 employees), 37 percent from medium-sized companies (100500 employees) and 35 percent from small companies (less than 100 employees). By business sector, 24 percent of participants were from the production sector, 10 percent from construction and 66 percent from the services sector.

CNBC and YPO have formed an exclusive editorial partnership consisting of regional "Chief Executive Networks" in the Americas, EMEA and Asia-Pacific. These Chief Executives Networks are made up of a sample of YPO's global network of more than 24,000 top executives from 130 countries who are on the front lines of the economy and run companies that collectively generate $6 trillion in annual revenues.