Largest global survey finds majority of private U.S. companies are optimistic about economy in 2010

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SOUTHFIELD, MI., Jan. 27, 2010 — The majority of private U.S. companies are optimistic about the U.S. economy in 2010, according to the largest global survey of 7,400 private firms in 36 countries. The survey was conducted in November 2009 by Grant Thornton International Ltd, one of the six global accounting organizations. In the U.S., private businesses account for an estimated 100 million jobs – more than 70 percent of U.S. employment.

Economic outlook

In the U.S., 51 percent of respondents said that they were optimistic about the U.S. economy in 2010, while 31 percent said they were pessimistic. Globally, 51 percent were optimistic about their respective country’s economy and 27 percent were pessimistic. The three most optimistic countries were Chile, India and Australia; and the three most pessimistic countries were Japan, Spain and Ireland.

Employment

By a two-to-one margin, U.S. private businesses plan to increase their work force than decrease it (29% vs. 14%), while 56 percent will keep it the same. Globally, 34 percent plan to increase their work force, 14 percent plan to decrease and 50 percent plan no change. Countries with the greatest planned increases were Vietnam (64%), Brazil (63%) and India (56%); the lowest employment increases were planned in Italy (14%), Ireland (15%), Germany (15%) and France (16%).

Revenues

In the U.S., 51 percent believe that their company’s revenues will rise in the coming year, 13 percent believe they will fall, and 36 percent believe they will stay the same. Globally, the numbers are slightly more optimistic, as 54 percent believe their company will rise, 14 percent believe they will decrease, and 31 percent believe there will be no change. Countries with greatest planned revenue growth were Vietnam (95%), Argentina (81%), the Philippines (80%) and Chile (80%); France (32%), Japan (32%), Ireland (33%) and Italy (33%) had the lowest expectations for revenue growth.

Pricing

Inflation pressure may be beginning to creep in, as 31 percent in the U.S. expect to increase prices, 17 percent expect to decrease prices, and 46 percent will leave them the same. Globally, 30 percent expect to increase prices, 19 percent will decrease prices, and 44 percent will leave them the same. India (62%), Argentina (55%) and South Africa (54%) led countries expecting to increase pricing, while Japan (6%), Ireland (10%) and France (12%) had the fewest increases.

Recovery investments

In what areas are U.S. private companies investing as the economy prepares to recover? Targeting new markets (54%), improving workforce skills (53%) and new products and services (44%) were the top three areas. Globally, the investments were nearly identical: targeting new markets (51%), improving workforce skills (47%) and new products and services (46%).

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