Swooning stocks and mediocre economic reports earlier this spring appear to have shaken Washington area executives, but that didn't have much effect on their investment and hiring plans.

In the first quarter, 70 percent of local executives questioned in a survey thought the country's economic conditions had improved in the past year, said TEC International, a business consultancy. By the second quarter, 48 percent held that opinion. In the first quarter, 58 percent said they thought overall economic conditions would improve in the next year, but that dropped to 38 percent in the second quarter.

While the executives were sharply less optimistic about the economy in broad terms, they seem just as confident as they were earlier about the outlook for their own businesses. In the second quarter, 64 percent said they plan to increase their companies' fixed investment expenditures in the next 12 months, the same as in the first quarter. About 9 percent said they expect profits to rise in the next year, compared with 63 percent in the first quarter. And 68 percent said they expect to add employees over the next year, barely changed from the 71 percent who thought that way at the start of the year.

The survey of TEC's corporate clients in Washington-Baltimore area, who represent a range of businesses, included 80 respondents in the first quarter and 77 in the second, making for a sampling error of 9 percentage points

-- Neil Irwin