A number of newly released surveys offer light at the end of the tunnel for some of the world’s biggest economies:

• In the UK, the ailing manufacturing sector may be on the verge of recovery, judging by a report from the Confederation of British Industry. The CBI’s barometer of industry confidence rose for the first time in two years, with both export and domestic orders expected to rise in the next four months. The body’s chief economic adviser Ian McCafferty said the sector is “on the turn”, but also warned any upturn would be “fragile”, with employment set to continue falling.

• Recovery is also the watchword of economists in Germany, where six leading economic institutes have expressed “cautious optimism” in their combined spring forecast. They expect Europe’s biggest economy to post 0.9% GDP growth this year (having hit bottom in Q1), and then 2.4% in 2003. Although below projections made last autumn, the 2002 forecast is ahead of downbeat estimates issued by some of the institutes at the end of 2001.

• There is even talk of some form of turnaround in Japan, which has been mired in an economic downturn for eighteen months. The Japanese government’s quarterly consumer confidence index increased from 36.9 in December to 38.4 in March, reflecting improved prospects for employment, incomes and living conditions. However, the index is still well below the 50.0 threshold between pessimism and optimism.

Data sourced from: New York Times; Financial Times; BBC Online Business News (UK); additional content by WARC staff