With slower growth expected in the months ahead, the nation's business leaders were less optimistic about the economy in the second quarter, according to Business Roundtable, a Washington-based group of chief executives.

Based on a survey of 100 CEOs nationwide, the group's quarterly economic outlook index dropped by three points from the opening quarter to 81.9. Readings above 50 indicate expansion. The index has ranged between 50 and 70 since late 2002, including a high of 104.5 in early 2005.

Sixty-six percent of respondents said they expected sales to increase over the next six months, compared to 33 percent that anticipated no change or declines. Fewer businesses also reported changes in capital spending and hiring plans.

On average, respondents said they expected the economy to expand by 2.6 percent this year.

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