Economic clouds starting to lift?


Hey, we didn’t say it. It was Barack Obama who noticed “glimmers of hope” that economic conditions would eventually rebound, including a sterling quarterly report from Wells Fargo, action on the mortgage refi front and SBA cash getting into circulation. Other monitoring agencies have noted upticks in consumer confidence and the Wall Street Journal found a group of somewhat optimistic economists.

Here’s a look at various takes on current economic conditions:

* WSJ’s glimmer of hope is a relatively dim glimmer. Its poll of economists yielded the happy prediction of a quarter’s worth of growth Q3 this year – but it will be less WSJ’s panel of experts is right, it will amount to less than half a percent. They also think that the end of red ink won’t help the bleak employment situation until well into 2010.

* A Business Roundtable survey of CEOs found bleak expectations, although many think the worst of the downturn is already behind us, comprising Q4 2008 and Q1 2009. 71% expect that their own companies will be shedding jobs, and that when 2009 is gaveled to a close GDP will be down 1.9%. But on the plus side, they also see signs that the stimulus package is beginning to yield results.

* March retail sales were down, but were less dismal than in previous months. And part of the explanation can be found in a late Easter. In fact, the mid-April calendar berth for the holiday is expected to give April retail sales a welcome boost. Discount outlets are still suffering less than their more upscale competitors.

* The glimmer of hope has been noticed by the Gallup organization has seen a turnaround in March in both its investor and consumer readings. Rasmussen pretty much agrees, citing improved consumer mood and steady investor mood.

* RBC Consumer Attitudes and Spending by Household Index showed its first bit of improvement since September 2008, going from a pathetic 8.2 reading in March to 38.3 in April. Consumers also registered a 58.3% increase in future confidence – but employment worries remain strong.

RBR/TVBR observation: We saw some good advice somewhere recently, can’t recall just where. But the idea is that no company can turn on a dime, so it will be important to plan for the recovery and implement steps to take advantage before the recovery actually happens. If wait until the last minute to do this, you will be eclipsed by the companies that successfully anticipated the good times and celebratory spending spree.

Of course, if you pull the trigger too early, you could precipitate or hasten your own company’s demise. So keep your ear to the ground, carefully read your tea leaves, make sure your crystal ball is polished to a high sheen, and at the very least, make sure your mindset is ready to rush full-bore into the good times when they do in fact show up.