CNBC Daily Open: U.S. CEOs feeling better about the economy

Li Jianguo | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

This report is from today's CNBC Daily Open, our international markets newsletter. CNBC Daily Open brings investors up to speed on everything they need to know, no matter where they are. Like what you see? You can subscribe here.

What you need to know today

Milestone crossed
The benchmark S&P 500 hit the 5,000 level for the first time on Thursday, but closed just under the milestone. The blue-chip Dow also rose, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 0.24% as robust earnings and the continued advance of mega cap stocks have rallied the market in recent sessions.

Google renames Bard
Google rebranded Bard, its artificial intelligence chatbot and assistant to Gemini, the same name as the suite of AI models that power it. The changes are a first step to "building a true AI assistant," said Sissie Hsiao, a vice president at Google and general manager for Google Assistant and Bard.

Japan's zombie problems
Despite strong performance since the beginning of 2023, Japan's stock market faces several issues over zombie firms. This comes as the Bank of Japan is widely expected to raise interest rates this year — for the first time since 2007.

Arm surges
Shares of Arm spiked 48% after the chip design company posted robust earnings and gave strong guidance for the upcoming quarter. The stock rally added about $38 billion to Arm's market cap, with over $34 billion of that accruing to SoftBank, which owns 90% of the company. 

[Pro] Bypassing the Magnificent 7
Morningstar's chief markets strategist David Sekera highlighted that the Magnificent Seven stocks "are starting to run out of steam." Instead, he picked some lesser-known U.S. small caps, which are far more attractive and currently in play. 

The bottom line

It seems American CEOs are feeling more upbeat about the state of the economy.

For the first time in two years, the index that measures sentiment among U.S. chief executives has turned positive, the latest Conference Board report showed. 

It rose to 53 in the first quarter, up from 46 in the final three months of 2023. A reading above 50 suggests CEOs have become optimistic about what's ahead for the economy. 

CEOs also cited reduced inflation (34%) and Federal Reserve interest rate cuts (28%) as top developments that might benefit businesses. 

The positive turn in confidence is consistent with recent economic data that showed a resilient economy and a robust labor market as well as slowing inflation.

Moreover, the recent slate of stellar corporate earnings have led to a booming stock market, with the S&P 500 briefly crossing the key 5,000-point threshold for the first time.  

Despite CEOs' bullishness, caution also remains. 

Asked to identify the biggest business challenge in the U.S. this year, an overwhelming 51% pointed to the upcoming presidential elections.  

This isn't surprising as President Joe Biden confronts a dissatisfied electorate and a challenging political climate nine months before he faces reelection, according to a new national NBC News poll.

Wall Street will have to deal with this uncertainty that will no doubt loom over business sentiment in the months to come.

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