US government officials have hit back at the almost daily round of pessimistic forecasts concerning the nation’s economic prospects.

“There seems to me to be an infatuation with the negative,” declared Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill. “I don't understand what comfort people get from it, and I don't understand why there seems to be a focus on the negative to the exclusion of the positive things that are going on.”

Stock prices, claims O’Neill, bear little relation to economic data, which provide a more optimistic view. Although he admitted the recovery is “uneven and bumpy”, he pointed to signs that the economy is growing at around 3% in the fourth quarter, with GDP forecast to increase up to 4% next year.

O’Neill’s optimism tallies with an increasingly upbeat view, in some quarters at least, of the ad industry’s prospects for 2003.

There are signs of increasing adspend, despite fears of war and further economic difficulty. Network TV is enjoying strong sales for the fourth quarter, while cable networks are predicted to post 6% national ad growth next year, according to Cable Advertising Bureau chief Joe Ostrow.

However, many continue to be pessimistic, with a report last week suggesting war and a new recession could lead to a decline in 2003 ad budgets [WAMN: 11-Oct-02].

Such uncertainty was epitomized by media pundit Jack Myers, editor of the daily media stethoscope, Jack Myers Report USA: “Overall, the forecast for spending in 2003 looks very strong,” he said. “But I can't help but be very conscious of all the negative influences.”

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff