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CEOs' outlook mixed in survey

DAVOS, Switzerland -- Business leaders gathering for their annual high-profile networking forum in Davos are feeling a bit better about their companies' prospects and a lot more so about the broader economic outlook. But they still have a long list of worries.

Half a decade on from a financial crisis that brought the world economy to the brink, the immediate threats to corporate profits are receding and chief executives are encouraged by a brightening outlook in both the United States and Europe.

Yet, they do not have to look far for future threats -- from a worrisome slowdown in emerging markets to uncertainty over the tapering of the U.S. Federal Reserve stimulus and concerns over increased regulation.

The annual PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of more than 1,300 CEOs found that 39 percent were "very confident" their company's revenues would grow in 2014, up from 36 percent a year ago.

While the trend is encouraging, the reading is still down from the 50 percent-plus levels seen in 2007 and 2008, highlighting how the return to growth remains fragile and uncertain.

Significantly, CEOs were more upbeat in assessing the macroeconomic outlook than that of their own companies, with 44 percent believing the global economy will improve in the next 12 months, against just 18 percent a year ago.

Concerns about overregulation have moved to the top of the agenda in the past year as new rules -- many debated since 2008 -- are now being implemented, raising the cost of compliance and taking up management time.

The weakness in some emerging markets and uncertainties about where this leaves corporate strategies is also a big talking point for many multinational companies, since it coincides with recovery in the West and signs of progress in Japan's efforts to counter years of economic stagnation. -- Reuters

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