JPE gets the numbers on market outlook

Guest speaker Chris Caton, BT Financial Group chief economist, started proceedings by presenting positive news on what he predicts 2004 holds for the economy. According to Caton, who believes that last year was one of the better years we have had in recent times, 2004 should be marked by continuing economic growth, particularly in Australia.

Caton says that exports should continue despite the recent dollar surges, especially with the effects of the drought beginning to ease, the world economy should continue to improve, the Australian market will keep growing but should ease slightly, and investors should expect the Reserve Bank to raise interest rates by another quarter of a percent.

Hagop Tchamkertenian, Printing Industries Association of Australia (PIAA) industry and commerce manager, then presented not-so-positive figures on the state of the printing industry in 2003, and his predictions for 2004. He believes that despite a tough year in 2003, conditions should be more favourable in 2004.

While the Australian economy grew by three per cent last year, the printing industry declined by four per cent. There was good news for the paper industry though, reporting growth of four per cent.

“Technically speaking, the industry is in recession. You need two consecutive quarters of decline for a recession, and we have now had three consecutive quarters of negative growth,” says Tchamkertenian.

Tchamkertenian also reported capital expenditure has dropped over the last six consecutive quarters, sales have declined over the last eight, and the number of debtors is increasing. However, the top 15 per cent of the industry (those with more than 20 employees) have reported nine consecutive quarters of large growth.

“The rest are doing pretty ordinary indeed,” he says. “However, business expectations remain positive, and capital expenditure intentions are quite high, possibly due to the proximity to drupa.”

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