A majority of CEOs think their businesses are poised for strong growth over the next year as the economic pain from the coronavirus-triggered crash last year begins to fade away.
A new survey published by Deloitte this week shows that 77% of chief executives are projecting "very strong" or "strong" growth over the next 12 months. Just 23% projected "modest" growth, and no respondents said they think economic growth will be "weak" or "very weak."
"While CEOs may be divided on the duration of pandemic business effects more generally, their bullish outlook on the future of their own organizations is remarkably in sync," the survey said.
Although the executives were divided over whether the business effect of the pandemic would disappear by the end of the year – 53% of respondents said yes, while 47% said no – they agreed the downturn had provided new opportunities to innovate.
For instance, 82% of CEOs are planning to drastically increase spending on technology modernization efforts as the pandemic forced broad swaths of the nation's workforce to vacate their offices and begin working remotely. Another two-thirds – about 67% – said they expect to increase spending on artificial intelligence, and another 58% projected additional spending on sustainability.
Driving their businesses' growth will innovation and new products (54%), application of technology (52%), accelerated or pent-up consumer demand (38%), increased operational efficiencies – thanks to things like a hybrid workforce – (34%) and price increases due to a recent inflation surge, the CEOs said.
The sense of optimism reflects a broader belief among economists that the U.S. economy is slated to grow at the fastest pace in years as widespread vaccinations allow businesses to fully reopen and eager Americans venture out to shop, dine at restaurants and bars and travel again.
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, grew by 6.4% on an annualized basis in the three-month period from January through March, the Commerce Department said in its final reading of the data Thursday.
Experts think it's just the beginning of a record-setting year for the economy, boosted by several rounds of fiscal stimulus, including a $1.9 trillion relief package signed into law in March that sent $1,400 stimulus checks to most Americans.
"The revised data continue to paint a very positive picture of the U.S. economy's recovery from the coronavirus crisis," said Andrew Viteritti, commerce and regulations lead at the Economist Intelligence Unit. "We maintain our forecast that real GDP will expand by 6% year on year in 2021."