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NEW YORK: Business sentiment among large US companies fell for the fourth straight quarter, according to a report on Wednesday that highlighted worries about slowing growth outside the United States.

The economic outlook rating among US chief executives declined to 95.2 in the first quarter from 104.4 in the third quarter, according to the Business Roundtable.

Roundtable Chairman Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, said sentiment was dented by weakness in the fourth quarter in overseas economies, including Germany and Japan.

Dimon also said Brexit uncertainty posed a near-term risk, adding that Britain’s travails over its impending divorce from the European Union had been a “negative for a while” and that “there’s a growing risk in 10 days that you’ll have a so-called ‘hard Brexit.’”

Plans for capital investment and hiring and sales expectations all declined compared with the prior quarter.

However, all three categories remain high by historical standards, said the lobbying group, which is composed of the leaders of Apple, General Motors, IBM and other US giants.

Roundtable President Joshua Bolten said CEOs were “overwhelmingly positive about the US but a little tentative about the rest of the world.” Bolten said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the prospects of a US-China trade deal following recent progress on the talks between the two countries.

The business lobby plans to meet with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer this week at a quarterly meeting, he said.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2019