Lies, damn lies and statistics …

Recent evidence from business surveys and official data has provided some grounds for optimism. The US economy is ploughing ahead and there are signs that the eurozone economies are climbing out of recession, which should help UK exports. Corporate profits and business confidence are up, which should be good for investment. The Bank of England forecast recently that growth would average just under 3% in 2004.

There are still some reasons for caution. Consumer confidence has faltered as heavily-indebted households adjust to the prospect of a gradual rise in interest rates in 2004. And the world economy still relies heavily on the US, which is running dangerously high budget and trade deficits. But we can look forward to the new year with a little more cheer than this time last year.

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