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Cautious Optimism Begins, Pessimism Declines on U.S. and Global Economies among U.S. Industrial Manufacturers

The latest edition of the PwC's Manufacturing Barometer reports cautious optimism about the U.S. and global economies among U.S.-based industrial manufacturers. According to the Q4 2009 report, nearly half (47 percent) of survey respondents are optimistic about the U.S. economy's prospects, whereas only 5 percent were optimistic a year ago. Similarly, 41 percent of panelists who sell internationally are optimistic about the prospects for the world economy, compared to only 4 percent a year ago.

While many U.S.-based industrial manufacturers are planning new capital investments, the report's findings indicate a moderate investment rate. Looking at the next 12 months, 35 percent plan major new investments of capital, compared with 37 percent last quarter and 33 percent last year.

With signs of recovery on the horizon, this quarter the Manufacturing Barometer probed executives regarding their focus on rehiring and restarting projects that were stopped due to the recession.

The projects that were put on hold during the recession that will most likely get the go ahead are in the areas of information technology (42 percent); new product/service introduction (38 percent); and geographic expansion (35 percent).

In terms of rehiring, 60 percent of those surveyed have no immediate plans to rehire workers laid off during the economic downturn. Eight percent have started the process of rehiring, while 24 percent have plans to do so in the near-term.

Overall, signs of recovery in terms of project restarts and rehiring are beginning to appear, but companies will proceed cautiously and conservatively in 2010, with an eye to the future.

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