NEW YORK–Retail and manufacturing executives in the multifaceted home furnishings industry registered their most pessimistic evaluation of the economy in nine years, as the HFNdex, a proprietary measure, plunged an unprecedented seven points to 35.9 during the fourth quarter of 2007, from 42.6 in the third quarter.
Any reading below 50 reflects more negative, or pessimistic, views than positive.
The measure, developed by HFN during the last quarter of 1998, polls the executives on their views of economic conditions today versus six months ago, their expectations six months from now, and their evaluation of how their own companies’ profits will move within the coming year.
Not a single polled leader expressed a view that conditions are better now than before, or that they will improve, even moderately, in the next half year.
And only one in 10 said they thought their own firms’ profit picture will improve over the year.
For the full year, the index registered 43.0, also the lowest in its history. The previous low, at 51.0, was in 2001, a recession year.
In terms of employment, only one in 10 executives expects to increase permanent staff in 2008. A fifth expect to lay off employees, and two-thirds plan to maintain current staffing levels. — Nathan Weber