A new survey shows that the majority of Irish CEOs are confident about the economy and their businesses, but less so than last year.

PwC's annual CEO Pulse survey shows that 58% of CEOs are confident about the economy, down from 71% last year.

66% are also confident about future prospects for their businesses, but that too is down from 76% last year.

While Brexit is a big concern for business leaders, high personal taxation topped the list of challenges.

Of the CEOs surveyed, 93% said that high personal tax burdens was a challenge, while 89% cited Brexit and 88% pointed to rising wage costs. 

Cyber threats, a lack of affordable housing, lack of key skills and exchange rate volatility were also major concerns for business leaders.

But three quarters of the CEOs surveyed are still planning to grow revenues and two thirds expect to grow profits this year.

Even exporters - who have been badly hit by the falling pound over the past year or so - are fairly confident. More than a quarter are looking at exports growth in excess of 20% in the year ahead.

Feargal O'Rourke, Managing Partner at PwC Ireland, said the fact that confidence levels are down slightly on last year is hardly surprising given concerns relating to Brexit and other geopolitical factors.

"But uncertainty also brings opportunity, and many Irish CEOs do see opportunities arising. Not surprisingly there is a strong focus on export markets," he added. 

"Overall, in weighing up the opportunities and uncertainties, CEOs are slightly more cautious in their outlook with a consequent impact on the pace of investment decisions. Nevertheless they remain focused on the growth potential of their businesses," Mr O'Rourke said.

Launching today's survey, Frances Fitzgerald, the Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, said it serves as a useful indicator on future trends in Irish business.

"It is positive to note that, despite the uncertainties, the majority of Irish CEOs are continuing to plan for growth in their businesses," the Minister added.