Sept 18 (Reuters) - U.S. chief executives were less optimistic about the economy in the third quarter, with fewer expecting to increase sales or boost capital spending than in the preceding three months, a survey by the Business Roundtable showed.
The group's CEO Economic Outlook Index fell to 79.1 in the third quarter from 84.3 in the second quarter and 81.0 in the first quarter. ()
A reading above 50 indicates economic growth is expected.
"While U.S. business performance remains strong, as evidenced by robust recovery in the automotive sector, business leaders still see headwinds preventing a more sustained, robust recovery," said Jim McNerney, chairman of Business Roundtable and chairman and CEO of Boeing Co.
CEO expectations for 2013 gross domestic product growth was 2.2 percent, unchanged from the last quarter.
Seventy-one percent of CEOs said they expected their sales to grow over the next six months, down from the 78 percent in the June edition of the survey.
The survey, published on Wednesday, showed that 27 percent plan to increase capital spending in the United States over the next six months, down from 37 percent.
The survey showed that 32 percent of CEOs expected to hire more workers in the next six months, unchanged from the last survey.
Fifty percent of responding CEOs indicated that the ongoing disagreement in Washington over the 2014 budget and the debt ceiling is affecting their hiring plans for the next six months.
President Barack Obama was due to speak to members of the Business Roundtable on Wednesday.
Investors will get a more detailed view of corporate performance next month when top U.S. companies including Alcoa Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co and General Electric Co report results.
The Roundtable, an association of CEOs of top U.S. companies, surveyed 134 members between Aug. 16 and Sept. 6.