The London office of the Economist Intelligence Unit has issued a “CEO Briefing” that indicates a widely hopeful attitude toward the possibilities for growth in 2005, with 88% of the companies surveyed predicting growth of some sort over the next three years. Improved customer service, cost efficiency, and innovation are credited for the positive outlook. In fact, 34% of respondents expect robust growth.
Meanwhile, the complexities of world commerce tinge the rosy outlook with some darker shades: The Economist Intelligence Unit has predicted decelerating growth, from 5% in 2004, to 4.1% this year, and 4% in 2006. Respondents agree that China, seen as a good market for growth, is also a possible source of trouble, depending on how well the Chinese government can handle such issues as a possible overheated economy.
In the United States, the National Retail Federaton’s monthly Retail Sector Performance Index for January showed a normal reading of 50.31 points, down 14.8 points from January last year. NRF forecasts a slowdown in the coming year — the NRF’s chief economist Rosalind Wells is forecasting only a 3.5% gain in retail sales this year, compared to 6.7% last year. NRF president and CEO Tracy Mullin points out that increased fuel costs and slower wage growth are two important factors that may keep consumers from spending at the rate they did last year.