01 June 1998

Perhaps the punters know something the pundits don't - or maybe it's a case of For Tonight We'll Merry, Merry Be; Tomorrow, We'll be Sober! Whichever, consumer borrowings soared to a record level in June with credit card debt and new mortgage approvals increasing from £367m in May to £479m last month. The figures contrast starkly with a consumer confidence survey by Business Strategies, which reveals increasing fears about unemployment; also with another report showing a rise in the number of house repossessions for the first time in three years, while the rate of housing price-growth slows. Economists, raking over the entrails, disagreed with each other as usual about the reasons for the apparently contradictory trends. Sagely opined one: 'At this stage of the economic cycle, consumers often send contradictory signals.' [Astute, these economists!]

Marketers, however, see it differently. A survey of marketing managers by the Chartered Institute of Marketing has found widespread pessimism in the manufacturing sector and uncharacteristic gloom among the usually optimistic service industries. Overall, a staggering 43% of UK marketing managers expect to miss their sales targets in 1998.