14375 Fri, 05/02/2008 - 4:00pm
By Nathan Weber
NEW YORK–Executive retailers and vendors of home furnishings expressed a slight increase in confidence during the first quarter, although most remain less than upbeat.
The quarterly HFNdex, a proprietary survey measuring senior management’s perspectives on the state of the economy and the prospects of their own companies, rose nearly six points to 41.7. But because any measure under 50 reveals a preponderance of pessimistic over optimistic views, the reading reflects an outlook that remains gray.
Last quarter, the index fell to its lowest point since it was launched almost 10 years ago.
The current quarter’s reading is now the second lowest since 1998.
More than 69 percent of the executives in the current survey felt economic conditions were worse today than six months ago. Around a quarter felt they were moderately better, and the remainder saw no change.
Looking to the near future, 38 percent said they expect conditions to worsen, while 31 percent were moderately hopeful.
Asked how they expected their own companies’ profits to perform in the coming year—a question that almost always yields a higher degree of optimism—46 percent said their bottom lines should perform moderately better, while 31 percent were more negative. Around a quarter expected no change in either direction.
On a separate matter, survey respondents were asked if they agreed or disagreed with those who predict the 21st century will soon become the “Asian century,” as that region, along with South Asia, replaces the United States as the world’s dominant power. Many who make the argument say that the United States in the 20th century replaced Great Britain.
Among the respondents, more than 46 percent agreed that the United States will decline in power and influence, as Asia’s might grows. Slightly less than a third disagreed, arguing that the United States will most likely remain the world’s dominant force. The rest were not sure.
One respondent, who agreed with the assertion of a rising Asia, said that “the United States will remain great, but manufacturing and financial power has shifted.”