International chief executives are also less confident than last year about growth prospects for their own companies, according to the survey of 1,330 CEOs conducted by financial services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Only 28 percent of CEOs said they expected the global economy to decline further in 2013, against 48 percent last year, while 52 percent expected it to remain stable.
But only 36 percent said they were "very confident" in their company's growth prospects in the next 12 months, down from 40 percent last year and 48 percent in 2011.
"It's a little bit more positive than last year" in terms of predictions for the global economy, the chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers International, Dennis Nally, said at the release of the survey.
"CEOs are saying we're seeing another year where the economy is reluctant to recover," he said.
"It's not all doom and gloom, but we see an economy that is struggling to get traction."
Despite steps to shore up faith in the eurozone, Western European business leaders were the most pessimistic among the surveyed CEOs, with just 22 percent saying they were very confident of growth, down from 27 percent last year.
North American, Asia Pacific and African CEOs were also less confident, but Latin American executives bucked the trend, with 53 percent expressing confidence in the short-term, up slightly from last year.
For individual countries, Russian executives were the most confident, with 66 percent saying they had high expectations of revenue growth.
Asked about their concrete concerns, topping the list was continued uncertainty over economic growth, with 81 percent of business leaders concerned.
Other top worries included fiscal deficits, "over-regulation", lack of stability on capital markets and "the increasing tax burden", PwC said.
The World Economic Forum is a global gathering of top political and business leaders at the ski resort of Davos that starts officially on Wednesday.
However, related activities got under way in the mountain town on Tuesday with the Crystal Award Ceremony.
Among those honoured at the ceremony was South African actress Charlize Theron, a noted HIV/AIDS campaigner.
Reviving the global economy and the conflicts in Syria and Mali will top the agenda as world leaders and business chiefs meet at the annual gathering of international power brokers.
The Swiss Army has mobilized 3,300 soldiers to ward off trouble at the Davos summit, which typically attracts demonstrators.