Joe Biden to meet CEOs as inflation and invasion of Ukraine jolt US economy

US President Joe Biden and his officials are holding two meetings with top executives on Monday as a survey shows that last year’s rally in US CEOs’ economic confidence has reversed in the face of high inflation and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Companies including Cargill, ExxonMobil, JPMorgan Chase, US Steel and Visa have been invited to the White House for an afternoon briefing on the Russia-Ukraine crisis by the Treasury secretary, commerce secretary and others. The selection of companies spanning agriculture, energy, financial services and manufacturing shows the extent of the effects of the war in Ukraine on US industries.

Biden was later due to address members of the Business Roundtable (BRT), the big business lobby group, at a meeting at its headquarters on Monday evening expected to cover issues including Russia, inflation and encouraging more domestic manufacturing.

An economic outlook index released by the BRT on Monday fell nine points to 115 between December and March, as CEOs lowered their expectations for sales, capital spending and hiring over the next six months. The quarterly survey also showed the chiefs had slashed their projection for US GDP growth this year from 7 per cent to 3.9 per cent.

The reading from a 175-CEO poll largely conducted before the most deadly phase of Russia’s attack on Ukraine was still one of the strongest in the index’s 15-year history, but signalled growing uncertainty at the top of some of the world’s largest companies.

BRT officials urged policymakers to respond by taking steps to lower inflation and keeping the policy environment in which companies operate “competitive”.

Mary Barra, who chairs both General Motors and the BRT, called on Congress to pass the Chips Act, which would provide $52bn for domestic semiconductor production.

Josh Bolten, the BRT’s chief executive, said policymakers should address inflation risks by lowering tariffs, encouraging domestic energy production and working with business and labour to tackle supply chain challenges.

Many of the largest US companies have been part of a corporate exodus from Russia, where western brands have suspended, closed or cut their local operations. US sanctions have informed some of their decisions, but several companies have made the call with little guidance from Washington.

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