A new report shows the leaders of Iowa’s largest businesses are expecting a slowdown in sales, capital spending and employment in the coming six months. The Iowa Business Council (IBC) third quarter Outlook Survey Index fell to 61 points – which is down from 68 three months ago.

IBC executive director Elliott Smith says a score above 50 means business sentiment is positive, but the state’s top CEOs are slightly more reserved than they were in the last survey. “There are some unknowns out there with elections coming up, some tax issues that have not been settled in Washington and the unstable government budget issues in Europe,” Smith noted.

“Between all of those things, we’ve maybe seen a slight pullback and a reevaluation of how the coming six months business activity will play out.” The index is based on surveys completed by 21 CEOs of Iowa’s largest employers. Ninety-percent of the CEOs expect steady or increased sales over the next six months, while 86% expect hiring levels to remain steady or grow.

“Most of our business council members do expect continued good activity in sales, which really drives everything else in terms of further investment in buildings, machinery, equipment, as well as employment,” Smith said. “If sales remain strong, I think there is still good prospect here for the end of the year and the beginning of 2013.”

While the IBC Outlook Survey Index fell to 61 in the third quarter, it’s still four points better than this time last year (57).