It's an enviable job. Your divinations determine the employment of hundreds of thousands worldwide. But not yours. Get it wrong, try a replay. If that's wrong too, rewrite the forecast. And the pay is just great. Happy is the lot of a Wall Street analyst!

Not too many agency account planners would survive with similar track records. Or marketing directors. Or advertising sales VPs.

So make what you will of the latest advertising expenditure forecast from Lauren Rich Fine, advertising analyst at investment bank Merrill Lynch.

On Wednesday Fine lowered her earlier estimates for 2003 US advertising growth, down from 3.1% to 2.8% percent. Worldwide ad spending she now divines will grow at the rate of 1.9% rather than her previous guess of 2%.

Her expectations are more bullish for 2004 – likely taking her cue from the prognostications of those at the ad business coalface. Nonetheless, she revised down her earlier 5.7% US ad growth prediction to 5.4%, while the worldwide estimate is reduced from 4.9% to 4.7%.

In a commentary accompanying the numbers, Fine attributed her adjustments to "weaker local ad trends" that will counter the stronger growth rate of national advertising.

Another factor is retail advertising which so far this year "has not met expectations" and is likely to impact adversely on newspaper advertising growth.

Data sourced from: New York Times; additional content by WARC staff