Chief executive officers’ outlook on the business climate improved modestly in October, according to a poll of 400 CEOs by Chief Executive magazine. Still, many are seriously concerned about the restrictions of increasing regulations and, in particular, the consequences of New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s investigations on company profits and performance.

The magazine’s CEO Confidence Index rose 1.9 points in October to 162.3 after dropping 10 points in September. Chief Executive set this and complementary indexes at 100 when it launched them in October 2002.

Nearly 80% said the new regulations are hurting America’s competitiveness, and many said they are spending more than a fifth of their time coping with regulations rather than figuring out how to grow their businesses.

One CEO told the magazine: "The practice of settling the investigations for cash with no formal charges, no admission of guilt and no meaningful restitution to the alleged victims makes Spitzer part of the corruption rather than a solution." William Holstein, editor in chief of the magazine, added: "Spitzer is trudging into industry after industry with long, established practices, and he’s criminalizing them."

Nonetheless, 54% of respondents said they plan to hire within the next three months, while only 9% expect to decrease staff.

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