NEW YORK — American business leaders acquired a more positive attitude about the economy in the closing months of last year, according to a Conference Board survey released Thursday.
The nonprofit research and educational concern said its measure of business confidence registered 55 in the fourth quarter, up from 51 in the third quarter and 52 in the second.
The improved reading in the confidence barometer was based on responses from about 1,000 executives across a wide spectrum of the business community who were asked to appraise current and future economic conditions. It is computed on a scale of zero to 100, with 100 the best reading.
One-third of those surveyed reported an improving business climate, up from one-fifth in the previous poll. The number of executives experiencing deteriorating conditions was cut to one-fifth from two-fifths of the survey sample.
Hope for Gains
On the outlook for the next six months, executives forecasting improvements outnumbered those expecting worsening conditions by two to one. But more than two-fifths of the respondents foresaw no significant changes.
Conference Board economist Doug Cliggott said many of the executives polled hope that gains will show up on their balance sheets this year due to steps that they have taken to become more efficient.
"Many business leaders have made their organizations more efficient and expect improved earnings in 1986, even if growth of sales is only moderate," Cliggott said.
The Conference Board survey turned up somewhat more upbeat findings than one recently done by Dun & Bradstreet Corp., a leading gatherer and marketer of financial information.
Dun & Bradstreet's quarterly business expectations survey, released Monday, showed that the outlook for business activity in the first quarter was virtually the same as the one for the fourth quarter of 1985, when expectations slumped to the lowest point since mid-1983.