Robert J Coen, Universal McCann's media forecasting savant, on Wednesday gave the first of his biannual audiences to the votaries of Wall Street and the business press.

Benignly surveying the earnest seekers after knowledge, coach Coen broke the bad news gently. Although he sees "some signs" of a return to more normal trends in 2006, the likelihood of a really strong expansion is "still some time away."

Sadly, however, the forecasting fallibility of gurus differs litle from that of mortal man, as Coen admitted. He'd expected last December that spending this year would increase 5.8%. Yesterday, however, he lowered that slightly to 5.6%. "The cautiousness and climate of risk-aversion . . . settled-in earlier in 2005, and much of it could persist for some time," he said.

Looking at US gross domestic product expectations for 2006, Coen believes this will increase by 7.1% - somewhat higher than the latest prediction of 6.5% growth for nominal gross domestic product for this year.

"But," he warned, "the fact that national budget growth will slightly outpace the expected growth in the total economy is no reason for concluding that total advertising demand is booming. Relatively slow ad growth continues to be expected from local marketers."

Some attendees at the Coen congregation fear the great man has been unduly influenced by the late American novelist James Branch Cabell, who famously wrote: "The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; the pessimist fears this is true.

Data sourced from AdAge (USA); additional content by WARC staff