As predictably as the swallows return to Capistrano each midsummer, so media seer Robert J Coen confides to an expectant world his predictions for the global advertising economy.

Coen, svp and forecasting director at the New York office of Universal McCann, is more bullish in his prognostications than TNS Media Intelligence (which earlier this week predicted that US adspend for 2005 would rise by just 3.4%).

The McCann magus, however, expects US growth of 5.7%, a prediction revised downward from the 6.4% he envisaged in December. "2005 is not going to be as good as I expected," Coen admitted.

In the wonderful world of adspend prediction, flexibility is the name of the game. The cry 'whoops' reverberates through the air with monotonous regularity as the haruspices trim or inflate their forecasts in the cold light of reality.

The latest Coen augury is that ad spending overseas will grow 5.9% this year, slightly higher than the 5.8% gain he foresaw back in December.

And in terms of total global growth, expenditure will expand by 5.8% to $575.1 billion (€475.25bn; £310.09bn) this year, Coen said as he shrank his earlier estimate of 6.1% growth.

Stateside advertising dollars will total $278.8bn in 2005 - way above the $145.3bn predicted by TNSMI. Even so, Coen pointed to several factors that could combine to slow spending growth - among them the trend for consolidation among neighborhood retailers and the consequent reduction in local advertisers.

As to the media, Coen fingered one likely victim. "The category that is looking particularly distressing, particularly if you own a TV station, is the spot TV market," he said, noting that spot TV advertising posted a 5.8% loss in the first quarter compared with year-ago period. By comparison, revenue for the top four broadcast networks - ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC - grew 5.1% year-on-year in Q1.

Rotating his crystal ball to pick up the vibes for 2006, Coen anticipates US ad revenues will total $295bn next year, up 5.8% on 2005; while overseas advertising will reach $313bn, gaining 5.6% over 2005.

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