For the second year in a row, the confidence of global CEOs in their company's growth has fallen, according to the 16th Global CEO Survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the global auditing firm.
Only 36% of CEOs surveyed around the world feel "very confident" headed into 2013. CEO confidence has been steadily eroding the past two years; in 2011, 48% of CEOs surveyed were very confident, sliding to 40% last year.
"I was actually surprised this year. I would have said that I think things are getting better," said PwC's Chairman Dennis Nally in an interview with CNN's Richard Quest.
"I think Europe is getting better. I think the issues in the United States are getting better. We avoided the fiscal cliff. I think you saw growth rates coming out of China in the fourth quarter which are much more positive than what many had predicted so I would have been, quite frankly, more optimistic than what our survey results suggest."
The PwC report, released at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, also found that just more than half -- 52% -- of CEOs surveyed thought the 2013 global economic environment would stay the same, up four points from 2012. More than one in four believe it will deteriorate; less than 20% think it will improve.
"I would sum it up by saying I think we're in a period which is a stubborn recovery," says Nally. "Many have said that this recovery should have been more fast-paced."
That sentiment is nearly ubiquitous for short-term growth around the world, according to the PwC survey, with CEOs in North America, Asia-Pacific and Africa all registering falls in confidence -- most with double-digit percentage drops. Only Latin American CEOs saw their confidence rise.
Western European CEOs were the least confident of all -- just 22% were "very confident of growth", down from 39% in 2011.
"I think Europe has done a great job over the last six months managing its way through the crisis," says PwC's Nally. (But) they're not out of it yet."