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Tue, Jul 21, 2009 - Page 10 News List

Near 50% of US firms say sales bottomed

BRIGHTER OUTLOOK A report underscores recent figures that show housing and manufacturing are stabilizing even as the number of unemployed increases

BLOOMBERG

Almost half of US companies surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics projected that sales have already bottomed and their outlook on hiring is starting to improve.

About 45 percent of respondents in NABE’s Industry Survey said the first six months of this year probably marked their lowest revenue levels, and another 41 percent said sales will bottom by the end of the year.

While the overall employment outlook is negative, 18 percent said payrolls will increase in the next six months, the biggest share in a year.

RECESSION ABATING

“The US recession is abating,” Sara Johnson, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts, and chairman of NABE’s industry survey committee, said in a statement.

Even so, the survey provided “few signs of an immediate recovery,” she said.

The report underscores recent figures that show housing and manufacturing are stabilizing even as unemployment mounts. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News earlier this month projected the world’s largest economy will grow at a 1.5 percent annual pace in the second half of the year after contracting over the last four quarters.

BRIGHTER OUTLOOK

The NABE survey’s net employment index improved to minus 10 from minus 17 in the April poll, reflecting the brighter outlook on hiring. The share of companies forecasting additional cuts in payrolls held at 11 percent, the same as in April.

With unemployment at a 26-year high of 9.5 percent last month, companies felt no pressure to boost paychecks, signaling consumer spending may be restrained. The survey’s wage index dropped to minus 8, the lowest level since records began in 1982.

The NABE’s net figures subtract the percent of respondents reporting falling results from those reporting an increase. A total of 102 members responded to the poll, taken from June 19 to July 1.

OUTLOOK

The outlook for spending on new equipment was also less dire. Twenty-six percent of those surveyed said capital investment will grow over the next 12 months, up from 21 percent in the April survey and 16 percent in January.

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