Business Leaders See Inflation Ahead

Business leaders ended 1996 more confident than at the end of the third quarter but plan to push prices higher, suggesting inflation may increase, a new survey shows.

Almost 30 percent of chief executives surveyed expect price increases of more than 6 percent this year, the Conference Board said Monday. About 60 percent expect to raise prices up to 5 percent, up from the almost 50 percent who said so in the final quarter of 1995.

Fewer than 10 percent plan to reduce prices, down from 25 percent the prior year. The average company plans an increase of 3 percent, up from the 1996 forecast of 2.1 percent.

The Conference Board’s survey of about 200 chief executives in a variety of industries found them more confident than at the end of the third quarter, but only slightly. The board’s confidence index ended the year at 54, up 1 point from the third quarter and up 2 points from a year earlier.

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