As a business and finance journalist, the number of surveys, predictions and opinion pieces that cross my desk attempting to shine a light on business sentiment are endless. It becomes hard to sort the wheat from the chaff, or chaff from the chaff sometimes.
Where one survey will have UK or global businesses wildly enthusiastic about future prospects, another, seemingly questioning the same group, will have them still risk averse and reluctant to push the growth button.
Here is where the term “cautious optimism” comes in. If a set of statistics fail to draw a definitive line in the sand then guess what, the group is “cautiously optimistic”. If the cold wind of the global financial economy is blowing against the hot breeze of excited entrepreneurs, must be a case of “cautious optimism”.
So you can imagine how excited I was when an email arrived in my inbox extolling the virtues of “tempered optimism” – finally, I thought, the business world has found a new way of saying absolutely nothing.
The survey – we won’t say from who as I’m being slightly scathing in my analysis – stated that: “Significant progress has been made to repair the global economy and this will help drive a more positive investment environment in 2015.”
Ok, so we’ve established there has been “significant progress” in the global economy, great news for a more “positive environment” in the coming year.
The analysis touched on Quantitative Easing, Chinese resilience, growing emerging nation middle classes, Ebola and energy prices. And the one word it used to describe these combined themes? That would be “volatility”.
With “volatility” continuing to affect the next 12 months, through issues such as the Russian annexation of Crimea and the nation’s own collapsing currency, the study fails to nail its colours to the mast and tell us just what to expect from 2015.
Sure, it gives some market figures for US market growth and explains why this might be good for 2015, but then suggests that at any moment Europe may slip back into deflation.
The result of all of this toing and froing is “tempered optimism”. That’s just like saying there are some exciting things on the horizon but let’s not get ahead of ourselves as there are still a fair few things that could bring those all crashing down. So much the same then.
What I’d really like to see is forecasts that aren’t scared to say this, that or the other is going to happen. Nobody is going to come back in a years time and hold them to account if it doesn’t come off. In the meantime, it gives us an informed direction to look to as consumers, businesses or just people with a general interest.
For now the one saving grace is that maybe the word “cautious” won’t be rolled out in quite so much regularity. I wonder how long it takes before the world “tempered” produces that same sour taste?
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