Top business leaders are less gloomy about the prospects for the global economy than last year but are hardly brimming with confidence, according to a major survey released on the eve of the Davos forum.
International chief executives are also less confident than last year about growth prospects for their own firms, according to the survey of 1,330 chief executives conducted by financial services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Only 28 per cent of the executives said they expected the global economy to decline further this year, against 48 per cent last year, while 52 per cent expected it to remain stable.
But only 36 per cent said they were "very confident" in their company's growth prospects, down from 40 per cent last year and 48 per cent in 2011.
"It's a little bit more positive than last year" in terms of predictions for the global economy, the chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers International, Dennis Nally, said at the release of the survey.
"CEOs are saying we're seeing another year where the economy is reluctant to recover," Nally said. "It's not all doom and gloom, but we see an economy that is struggling to get traction."
Despite steps to shore up faith in the euro zone, western European business leaders were the most pessimistic among the surveyed chief executives, with just 22 per cent saying they were very confident of growth, down from 27 per cent last year.
North American, Asia-Pacific and African executives were also less confident, but Latin American executives bucked the trend, with 53 per cent expressing confidence in the short term, up slightly from last year.
For individual countries, Russian executives were the most confident, with 66 per cent saying they had high expectations of revenue growth.
Asked about their concrete concerns, topping the list was continued uncertainty over economic growth, with 81 per cent of business leaders concerned.
Other top worries included fiscal deficits, "over-regulation", lack of stability on capital markets and "the increasing tax burden", PwC said.
The World Economic Forum, a global gathering of top political and business leaders at the Swiss ski resort of Davos, started yesterday.