Al’s column

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by Al Wahnon

LOOKING GOOD: Shoppers have entered the holiday season more upbeat than anticipated, according to the most recent consumer confidence index from The Conference Board. The index rose 4.2 points from October to November, to 54.1. In keeping with the positive mood of consumers, both of its key component indices, present situation and expectations, also went up. Expectations provided most of the impetus by rising 6.7 points from October to 74.2. Present situations increased 0.5 to 24.0 points. It seems that consumers are counting more on the future than the present, maybe not the distant future, but in the short term. More survey respondents saw both improved business conditions and better job prospects six months down the road. I’ll buy that dream.

SURVEY SAYS: Polling businesspeople, the questions were, “Would you rather work for a man or a woman?” Man, 35.22%; woman, 8.36%; It doesn’t make any difference, 56.42%. Just about one-third is intimidated by women leaders. Next: “What is your main strategy for boosting holiday sales?” Social media campaigns, 20%; price cuts, 16%; more paid ads, 19.6%; other/none of the above, 44.4%. Other is pretty popular, like that guy anonymous. Next: “How many new business ideas are you toying with right now?” 2, 34.06%; 3 or more, 28.26%; 1, 20.65%; None, I’m focused on my existing business, 17.03%. The ones with two new ideas are at the head of the class. Finally: “Is your company planning to hold a holiday party this year?” No, 44.3%; Yes, but outside of work hours, 34.23%; yes, during work hours, 21.48%. In or out of work hours is one thing, but no party at all? Bah humbug.

STARTLING: According to a report by Standard Chartered, India will overtake Japan as the world’s third largest economy and China will be nearly double the size of the U.S. by 2030. Report researchers expect China’s economy to hit $73.5 trillion and India’s to reach $30.3 trillion as the global economy reaches $308 trillion in nominal terms by 2030. That’s something to think about. Such levels would represent massive share increases for both economies—China would account for 24% of the world’s economy, up from 9% currently, and India would assume 10%, up from 2%. China is experiencing an industrial revolution, spearheaded by its extraordinary infrastructure investment. And India, with democracy, entrepreneurship, contracts and property rights, plus a young population, is a strong contender on the global stage.

CONTRAST: Standard Chartered expects China’s growth to gradually slow over the next three years to rates of 10% in 2010, 8.5% in 2011 and 8% in 2012. India’s growth is forecast to gradually speed up to rates of 8.1% in 2010, 8.5% in 2011 and 8.8% in 2012. These trends will probably continue with China averaging 6.9% growth and India averaging 9.3% or higher over the next two decades to 2030. Another gauge of national economic strength is per capita income. Living standards, as measured by real per capita income, will increase nine-fold in China and India between 2000 and 2030. The report expects the per capita income in China to rise from the current levels of $4,166 to $21,420 over the next 20 years, while India’s is expected to grow from $1,164 to $7,380 over the same period. Note: China’s current per capita income is only 9% that of the United States and where we were in 1878.

GENERAL INFO: Colin Powell, former Secretary of State, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and U.S. Army General, was the keynote speaker at the recent Greenbuild 2010 in Chicago. At the end of his talk, he shared this inspiring anecdote: A man approached a framer at a construction site and asked what he was building. The response was “a frame for a window.” Then, he asked the glazier and he said “a window.” Soon, he ran into a craftsman working with small bits of colored glass in a frame and asked what he was building and the answer was “a cathedral.” Said the General: “We have to look beyond our part and realize the impact of our actions on a global level.”

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