Trump trade war spooks CEOs into curbing investing: Business Roundtable survey

Companies are reining in their plans for capital investment amid growing anxiety over President Donald Trump‘s trade war, according to an industry survey released Monday.

The Business Roundtable found that nearly two-thirds of chief executives said recent tariffs and future trade tension would have a negative impact on their capital investment decisions over the next six months. Roughly one-third expected no impact on their business, while only 2 percent forecast a positive effect.

The group’s quarterly survey also showed plans for hiring dropped as well, falling almost 3 points from the previous quarter to 92.6. But expectations for sales rose 2 points to 132.3.

Those conflicting forces – strong business conditions pitted against fears over trade – were reflected in the group’s broad index of economic outlook. That index declined almost 2 points to 109.3, but it remains well above the historical average.

“Business leaders are showing their confidence in the U.S. economy with strong plans for investment and hiring in the months to come,” BRT Chairman and JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon said in a statement. “Pro-growth policies have helped unleash this confidence with an agenda centered on tax reform and smart regulation. The uncertainty around our trade policies remains a risk.”

Business groups have been among the most vocal critics of Trump’s bellicose stance on trade. The BRT has called the tariffs on Chinese imports “the wrong way to achieve real reforms.” It is also calling for a compromise with Canada that preserves the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“Business Roundtable urges the administration to expand trade and investment – not introduce new barriers and uncertainties – as it negotiates with China and works to deliver a modern, trilateral NAFTA for the American people,” BRT Chief Executive Joshua Bolten said.

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