Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Federated/May: No job cuts until spring

CINCINNATI - Employees of Federated Department Stores and May Co. received word from their respective chairmen yesterday that there will be no job reductions in the combined company until March 2006.

Luxury Duvets

The letters, which were filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, explain that the companies have appointed a Transition Team of executives to assess resources and business needs.

"We want everyone at May to be able to take a deep breath and realize that there is time for Federated to learn more about May, and there is time for May associates to learn more about the new company and the potential opportunities it will provide," said the letter to May employees, which was signed by the chairman/president/CEOs both May and Federated, John Dunham and Terry Lundgren, respectively.

A separate letter to Federated employees, which was signed by Lundgren only, encouraged associates at that company to focus on running the business in the months ahead, "especially as we approach the important back-to-school and holiday seasons."

Friday, May 27, 2005

Stein Mart Sees Brighter Future Ahead

Source: Cecile B. Corral

Jacksonville, Fla. - Stein Mart Inc. is anticipating an upturn in its uneven home business beginning in the second half of this year and into spring as a result of new leadership and other improvements, the company said during its first quarter conference call last week.

"The home area continues to lag, but we have hired a new (general merchandise manager) over home and look forward to getting a new perspective on this important vision," said Michael Fisher, president and CEO.

He was referring to the recent appointment of Kassie Jones as vice president and general merchandising manager for the home area. Her background in retail includes management positions in the home area with Federated Department Stores, The Great Indoors and, most recently, Home Shopping Network, where she worked as senior vice president and general merchandising manager over home fashions.

Fisher added that he believes the company is better positioned in its home category for the second half of this year, "in terms of getting fundamental businesses at the appropriate levels. It will take some time before our new leadership's involvement is actually seen, but I think that will probably be visible in spring season of '06."

Stein Mart has revised its store openings/closings plans for this year, attributing the changes to "external issues, including construction delays." The company now expects eight to nine new stores - including one relocated site - to open this year and seven to shut down. Some stores originally planned for 2005 have been pushed back to 2006.

Confidence at 16-month high

WASHINGTON - Confidence among the nation's home builders remained strong during April, approaching its highest level in the past 16 months, spurred by strong demand for new single-family homes and continued low mortgage rates.

The monthly Housing Market Index compiled by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Wells Fargo Bank moved up three points to a reading of 70, close to the high side of the 67-71 confidence range that builders have held for more than a year.

The component of the index which gauges sales of single-family homes rose three points to a level of 76, and the component gauging sales expectations for the next six months came in with a reading of 77.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Memorial weekend shopping outlook: Mostly sunny

WAYNE, Pa. - This year's Memorial Day weekend will bring a variety of weather across the country, much of it favorable to sales of seasonal goods, according to retail forecaster Planalytics Inc.

The South Central and Southwest region - from Louisiana across to Southern California and up to Nevada - will experience summer heat and dryness, which should bode well for seasonal products, the service reported. Weather will also be positive for seasonal goods in the Southeast, Inner Mountain region, most of the West and the Northwest.

Conversely, most of the Eastern Seaboard stretching across to the Great Lakes will experience cool and unsettled weather. While not promising for sales of seasonal merchandise, the cooler, damper weather should spur store/mall traffic, according to Planalytics.

Survey says: Online retailing on the rise

WASHINGTON - Online sales last year rose 23.8 percent to $89 billion among 137 key retailers responding to an annual Shop.org study conducted by Forrester Research.

The report predicts that online sales (including travel) will rise 22 percent to $172.4 billion this year. Sales excluding travel are expected to reach $109.6 billion.

The study predicts a number of categories will see steep growth this year due to the growing acceptance of online shopping by women. They include cosmetics and fragrances, over-the-counter medications and personal care items, jewelry and luxury goods, and flowers, cards, and gifts.

Monday, May 23, 2005

230 Fifth launches new site

NEW YORK - A new Web site focused on 230 Fifth Ave. (The New York MarketCenter) has been launched that features information about showroom locations, building information and show dates. The site is located at www.230fifthave.com.

Intertextile Shanghai shifts show date

SHANGHAI - The date of Intertextile Shanghai Home Textiles 2005 has been changed to Aug. 23 to 25, a month earlier than previously announced.

Organizer Messe Frankfurt said the new timing more closely aligns the fair with the home textiles buying season, and can take advantage of a larger space available at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre. The show is expected to be 50 percent larger this year, according to the organizer.

Friday, May 20, 2005

How to Care for Bed Linens

Caring for household linens used to be as easy as beating them on a rock and drying them on a line.

Luxury Linens

Today, however, homemakers regularly use textiles that come in a multitude of fibers, colors, and sizes, each with specific care requirements.

If you've ever stood in front of the washer trying to decide between hot and cold, permanent press and extra rinse, then you know what we mean.

One of the best ways to know how to care for an item is to save the care directions that are packaged with it. Write the product name on it ("tan floral twin sheets" for example). Tape this card up in your laundry room or stick it into a card file kept on the laundry room shelf. If you're ever in doubt about laundering instructions this information will be a good place to start.

Yet beyond specific instructions are some general, common sense tips for purchasing, cleaning, and caring for household linens like sheets, towels, and duvets. Did you know, for example, that towels should be washed with vinegar before using? Or that sheets can be partially "unwrinkled" by drying them with a damp washcloth?



-Wash in cool or lukewarm water that's less than 104 degrees F.

-Set wash cycle on "gentle"

-Use the extra rinse cycle if available

-Use less detergent -- about half the recommended amount

-Avoid using bleach as it breaks down fabric fibers


-Dry sheets in the dryer only until they're dry

-Avoid over drying

-Remove sheets from the dryer promptly and fold immediately

Note:If sheets have cooled in the dryer and wrinkles have set, then tumble another 5-10 minutes with a washcloth that has been slightly dampened.


-Buy extra pillowcases for any sheet patterns you particularly love, as these are the pieces that will wear out the fastest.

-Iron pillowcases for fresh, crisp good looks on your bed.

-Change pillowcases at least twice a week in normal climates, more often in hot and humid regions.


-Have three sets of sheets per bed. Use one on the bed, one in storage, and one in the laundry.

-Rotate the sheets you use (vs. the sets you store) frequently so they wear evenly.

-Buy extra bottom sheets for any sheet patterns you particularly love, as these are the pieces that will wear out the fastest.

-Change sheets once a week in normal climates, more often in hot and humid regions.

General Tips

-Use a mattress pad between the mattress and sheets. Wash it when needed, at least every few months.

-When sheets are used as fabric ­ for pillow covers, shams, bedskirts, tablecloths, curtain panels and the like ­ avoid washing them as they will lose body and become limp. Dry clean if necessary.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Hancock to undergo extreme makeover

BALDWYN, Miss. - Hancock Fabrics will undergo an extreme makeover this year to re-merchandise its stores by the fall. The plan calls for the company to reconnect with its customers and stores by reevaluating everything it does from the customer's point of view in terms of product selection, store layout, merchandise presentation and advertising/marketing initiatives.

"Phase one is all about acquiring the knowledge to gain control over and stabilize our business," said Jane Aggers, president and CEO of Hancock Fabrics. "Phase two is about using the information from our customers and stores to improve the four-wall results of existing stores. (This) is already in place and very active with an aggressive timeline to support the fall season."

Hampered by a deep slide in same-store sales, thinning margins and an inventory build-up, Hancock recorded a first quarter loss of $3.3 million, compared with a small year-before profit of $816,000. Sales at the fabrics, crafts and home decorating specialist skidded 6.9 percent, to $97.8 million from $105.1 million last year. Same-store sales fell 6.9 percent, crimped in part by one less shopping day in this year's first quarter.

Government limits imports of combed cotton yarn from China

WASHINGTON - A government committee today agreed to put in place quotas that will limit the import of combed cotton yarn from China.

The Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA) determined that combed cotton yarn from China is threatening to disrupt the U.S. market. Imports of men's and boys cotton and man-made fiber shirts, not knit; man-made fiber trousers; and man-made fiber knit shirts and blouses will also be limited.

As a result of the decision, CITA will request consultations with China before the end of May.

The quota levels put in place will be 7.5 percent above the level of imports reached during the first 12 months of the most recent 14 months preceding the month that the request for consultations is made. The quota level will be prorated to correspond to the number of days left in the year as of the date of the request for consultations.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Li & Fung realigns, Toolan promoted

NEW YORK - Li & Fung USA has realigned its operation into a Home Brands Group and an Apparel Brands Group.

Industry veteran Jack Toolan has been promoted to executive vice president of the home group, overseeing licenses for Royal Velvet, Cannon and Cannon Royal Family brands. He was previously senior vice president/general manager for Cannon brands.

In additional, Scott Maddalene has been promoted to senior vice president for the Cannon and Cannon Royal Family brands. He had previously been vice president of global brand development for Cannon Brands.

Lou Casali, senior vice president for the Royal Velvet brand, now reports to Toolan.

In addition, Ron Ventricelli has been promoted to executive vice president of operations. He will oversee financial, customer services and all operating issues related to the Global Brand Business Group. Ventricelli, Toolan and the new executive vice president of the Apparel Brands Group, Robert Crocco, all report to Rick Darling, president of Li & Fung USA.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Amazon Hears Wedding Bells

Seattle - Amazon is looking to grab a share of the $50 billion wedding industry.

The company's new Amazon Wedding registry pulls together Amazon retailer and vendor partners large and small across 25 product categories. Reflecting today's broader definition of what's registry-worthy, those categories include tools and hardware, personal technology such as home theaters, and sporting goods.

Registry pages offer product recommendations pulled together by Amazon project managers. The pages also contain a few paid links to sellers of similar merchandise.

"A lot of what we speced were items that our customers have been asking for," said Kerry Morris, divisional manager, Home & Garden Store. "We've really tried to access everybody. But brands like Henkels, Riedel and Lenox are going to naturally rise to the top."

The registry is the latest step of Amazon's thrust into home. The bedding category has been an area of particular focus over the past year, said Morris, who joined Amazon from Wal-Mart International, where she was global sourcing and private label manager.

"If you look at bedding, which is a newer category for us, in the last year we've launched 30 to 40 brands, and that's just the beginning," she said.

Amazon looks for retail partners (currently including Macy's, JCPenney and Target) as well as vendor brands to link with, which in bedding includes a large serving of WestPoint Stevens Martex brand. When Amazon approaches a vendor about a brand, "We want to put up their full assortment," Morris said. "That's something a retailer can't do."

Although Amazon buyers have just begun to visit overseas trade shows, they have been actively scouring the New York Home Textiles Market (including the mini-markets), the High Point show, the New York International Gift Fair and other gift shows, Morris said.

"We're always striving for a very comprehensive mix," she added.

The new wedding registry also boasts comprehensiveness. If offers 150 wedding planning guides on 15 topics ranging from the engagement, preparation, day-of and post-wedding stages, providing instructions, ideas (such has how to determine what style of wedding best suits the couple) and tips.

A Yellow Pages link directs couples to vendors and service providers such as florists and caterers in their region.

The registry guide offers advice about how to select everything from sheets and bake ware to home theaters and digital cameras. A registry checklist helps couples keep track of what they've requested and recommends product quantities. A Thank You list provides couples with the names and addresses associated with each gift to ease the task of sending thank you notes after the event.

Amazon has also teamed with The MiMi Girls - Michele Adams and Gia Russo - authors of Wedding Showers and hosts of The Art of the Party on the Fine Living Network. They also offer tips and suggestions.

Said Adams: "Weddings, like couples today, are becoming more casual. A lot of couples are paying for their own wedding, so they're very budget-conscious."

Monday, May 16, 2005

Government to invoke safeguards on China textiles imports

WASHINGTON - A government committee today has "announced affirmative decisions" in three textiles-safeguard cases that were filed in April, five days after the 30-day comment period came to a close on May 9.

The Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA) found that cotton knit shirts and blouses, cotton trousers, and cotton and man-made fiber underwear are being disrupted, "and that there is a threat of further disruption," stated CITA.

"Today, CITA announced its decision to invoke textile safeguards based on market disruption and threat of market disruption due to the magnitude of increases in textile imports from China and China's significant capacity to increase production and exports to the United States in these product categories," said Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez. "Today's action by CITA demonstrates this Administration's commitment to leveling the playing field for U.S. industry by enforcing our trade agreements. We will consult with the Chinese to find a solution that will permit the orderly development of trade in a quota free environment."

CITA will now request consultations with China by the end of May. Talks must be held within 30 days of receipt of the request by the Chinese government.

In addition to the cases CITA decided today, there are four cases pending for which the public comment period has closed. The four additional cases were initiated by CITA last fall in response to industry requests alleging a threat of market disruption. CITA stated that it is working to complete its analysis of the facts in those cases and will issue its determinations "as expeditiously as possible."

Friday, May 13, 2005

Karen Neuburger to unveil new infant bedding at JPMA

Source: HTT

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. - The Karen Neuburger brand has expanded its line of children's and infant bedding and room accessories with a new crib collection by Crown Crafts called It's A Star that's set to preview at JPMA in Orlando from May 23 to 25.

It's A Star features prints from Karen Neuburger's comfort-inspired fabrics in a mixture of blues, greens and yellows. In addition to a four-piece bedding set and crib sheets, the ensemble includes a coordinating window valance, diaper stacker, decorative pillow, lamp, mobile and decorative wall border. Retails range from $16 to $200 for this collection that is scheduled to be in stores this fall.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Federated leaps, home lags

Source: HTT

CINCINNATI - Profits at Federated Department Store jumped ahead 34 percent during the first quarter - but no thanks to home.

Comps were weakest among furniture, bedding and rugs, according to Karen Hogue, chief financial officer. Overall comps rose 2.6 percent for the quarter ended April 30, while total revenue increased a modest 2.5 percent to $3.6 billion.

During a call with analysts earlier today, Hogue noted the company has said since last year that it doesn't expect the full impact of its consolidated Macy's Home organization to kick in until fall 2005. As for the merchandising impact of the merged Federated/May buying organizations, Hogue predicted change would not be evident until fall 2006.

Skewing the year-over-year profit comparison somewhat, last year's earnings were reduced by 6 cents per share to cover store closing costs and the Macy's home store consolidation. Excluding those one-time costs, earnings per share rose at a more moderate, but still strong, pace of 20.3 percent.

It wasn't enough for hungry analysts and investors. After Hogue, during the call, cautioned that an exceptionally strong first quarter would be tough to duplicate later in the year, Federated’s stock, after initially rising higher, slipped 1.7 percent, or $1.10 per share, to $62.80 from $63.90 the day before.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Heads roll following Saks investigation

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Saks Incorporated has asked a number of its senior executives to resign after the company completed its internal investigation into improper vendor markdown allowances which took place from 1999-2003.

Specifically, Donald Watros, chief administrative officer of Saks Fifth Avenue (SAFE); Brian Martin, general counsel at the time of the 2002 investigation and currently a senior vice president with responsibility for real estate matters; and Donald Wright, chief accounting officer, have all been asked to resign.

The investigation found approximately $20 million was improperly collected from vendors, whom SAFE has said it will "reimburse or otherwise compensate."

Springs sells Eureka plant to Spartan Fiber

FORT MILL, S.C. - Springs Industries has sold its Eureka Plant to Spartan Fiber, which plans to use the former textiles weaving facility in Chester, S.C., for yarn storage and distribution.

Gary Mahaffey, president and owner of Spartan Fiber, said the facility will initially employ a small number of Spartan employees, and employment could grow as the business expands.

Because there is more space at Eureka than Spartan currently needs, the company agreed to lease office space to the Good Samaritan Clinic. The Springs Close Foundation has provided financial support to the clinic to buy medical and office supplies.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Nordstrom lands Exclusive "Heavenly Beds" Deal

Seattle - The Heavenly Bed, the Westin Hotels signature bed and bedding collection, is now being sold at retail exclusively at Nordstrom.

Nordstrom, the fashion specialty store retailer based here, is featuring the Heavenly Bed collection in 48 of its 61 At Home departments, calling the collection Heavenly Bed at Home. Nordstrom has 95 stores coast to coast.

Luxury Hotel Linens

The program began five years ago, explained Sue Brush, senior vice president, Westin Hotels & Resorts, the result of hotel guest's requests to purchase both the mattresses and bedding following their visits to a Westin Hotel.

At the launch of the Nordstrom program in New York last week, Brush noted that in the first year Westin's sales of Heavenly Bed products were almost $1 million. Last year, sales jumped to $8.5 million via the in-room catalog and Web site.

The all-white collection, from the mattress and upholstered bed to the decorative pillows, is featured in specially designed sections of the At Home departments. While Nordstrom currently has 61 At Home departments with decorative accessories, gifts, accent furniture and some textiles, 48 are carrying the Heavenly Bed bedding, and 24 offer the full program including the upholstered beds and mattresses, said Paul Begich, national merchandise manager, At Home.

The bedding collection, which is supplied by Baker Linen, includes 300-count Egyptian cotton sheets, a lightweight goosedown blanket, a jacquard duvet cover filled with a down insert, a range of feather and down bed pillows and a boudoir pillow.

The mattress is a specially designed Beautyrest from Simmons, the upholstered bed is from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.

Nordstrom will market the Heavenly Bed program via its own sales staff, which is known for personal shopping attributes. It will also feature the line on its Web site, Begich related. But it will not sell the products on the Internet "because we want to enhance the one-on-one relationship with the customers."

Customers shopping in stores without the At Home departments will be able to consult with sales people in those stores who will guide them to the stores that carry the products, he said. Sales people at the participating At Home stores have received special training in the past few months, Begich added.

Results in just the few days the program has been in the stores have been very good, he said.

The entire 10-layer bed sells for $3,115 to $3,615, with the mattress set priced from $1,250 to $1,450.

The expansion of home furnishings at Nordstrom "means we're absolutely looking at line extensions," in this business, Begich stated.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Amazon offers wedding site/registry

SEATTLE -- Amazon Services is opening Amazon Wedding -- a Web site offering planning and registry advice, along with products.

The company has teamed with Michele Adams and Gia Russo -- authors of Wedding Showers and The Art of the Party -- to add advice throughout the wedding planning guides.

Amazon Wedding also offers checklists and planning tools to help keep track of the wedding process. The site features a local vendor search feature to help couples find florists, photographers and caterers in their local area.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Easter shift means tough April comparison

Source: By HTT

WASHINGTON - The early Easter holiday which bolstered sales in March has had the opposite effect on April, according to results of the April NRF Retail Executive Opinion Survey, with the Retail Sector Performance Index dropping 7.9 points from last month and 8.8 points from last April to a reading of 50.5.

"Given the Easter shift to March, retailers were hard-pressed to compete with last April's strong gains," said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin.

Down Bedding

The Demand Outlook, a six-months-ahead sales outlook, dropped 8.7 points in April to 52.8.

Anna's Linen readies for IPO

COSTA MESA, Calif. - Anna's Linen Company is preparing to become a public company.

The 182-store chain yesterday filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission to set in motion an initial public offering of its common stock.

In 2004, the company earned $5.4 million on sales of $225.2 million, according to its prospectus.

CIBC World Markets and Wachovia Securities will act as joint lead managers for the proposed offering, with SG Cowen & Co. and Wedbush Morgan Securities as co-managers.

Since 2000, Anna's has been steadily accelerating its expansion with an eye toward an eventual public offering. The company now operates stores from coast to coast across the southern half of the United States. Last year, it opened more than 50 new units and made its first foray into the Midwestern market with openings in Chicago.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Big Names Returning to Retail

Retail Comeback

Source: By HTT

New York - The Cannon, Charisma and Royal Velvet brands are in various stages of evolution as the former pair plan their reintroduction at retail and the later looks to expand its distribution following a bumpy spring launch.

Cannon - once the largest home textiles brand by volume in the industry - is honing in on decisions about final construction in sheets and towels, and has already developed design boards for top-of-bed in the office of Li & Fung, the firm that holds the licenses for both Cannon and Pillowtex.

The line will be ready to debut at retail in the United States and Europe in February 2006, said Jack Toolan, Li & Fung's senior vice president, general manager for Cannon.

"In our view, this is a very big brand," he said. "It's known for bed and bath, but we think Cannon should populate every part of the home business."

In top-of-bed, Cannon is developing product to suit five lifestyles Li & Fung sees as compatible with the brand's history: cottage, traditional, tudor, bungalow and townhouse.

In bath, Cannon will bring out a core basic towel in 12 colors priced at $4.99, with a step-up towel in 10 colors at $6.99. In sheets, the core solid will be a 220 blend, with an all-cotton 250 step-up construction. The core sheet will retail somewhere between $32.99 and $37.99 on a queen set and the better sheet will retail for about $10 more.

Cannon is also well into the development of a consumer marketing campaign under the tagline "Cannon, Take Comfort" that seeks to evoke traditional values such as family. Li & Fung's consumer research found that Cannon still has the highest name recognition in bed and bath among consumers, and ironically, many consumers in the survey claimed to have purchased Cannon products during the past two years.

Charisma, which is being produced under license by WestPoint Stevens, will be ready to ship later in the year to high-end specialty stores and catalogs. WestPoint has developed a broad horizontal program across fashion bedding, bath and utility bedding.

"We're positioning it as a luxury brand - not at the very top, but above the moderate level for luxury," said Judi Alexander, WestPoint's vice president for Charisma Home.

Duvet covers are oversized at 100-by-100 inches. Fitted sheets feature a 19-inch pocket and all-around elastic. Coverlets are detailed with hand-applied embroidery. Blankets include a Lyocell and cotton construction, a mercerized Egyptian cotton and a cashmere and mercerized merino wool blend.

The core Egyptian cotton sheet comes in nine colors. Alexander would not discuss thread-count or finishing details beyond saying the sheet was made of compact yarn and that the weaving technique is proprietary.

Meanwhile, Royal Velvet is working to live up to expectations after a disappointing February launch in bath. The brand, which is produced under license by Li & Fung, will introduce an improved $9.99 core towel with its July shipment. The mercerized 30-by-56-inch towel is constructed of combed Supima loops and compact yarn.

"We think we've got a Cadillac product here," said Lou Casali, Li & Fung's senior vice president and general manager of Royal Velvet.

As it looks to roll out the bedding program it introduced during the New York Mini-Market in February, Royal Velvet will launch a consumer marketing campaign this fall under the tag line: "Royal Velvet, Fashion for the Bed and Bath."

The campaign features young women wearing pieces of the line as apparel along with the slogan: "If you could wear it, you would." The idea, Casali said, is to attract a younger customer to the brand.

"The traditional Royal Velvet customer is a little bit older, and we want to keep her, but we're also appealing to a new customer," he said. "We're trying to juice this business back up again."

The national campaign will target women 25 to 54 years old, skewing younger, with a household income of $50,000 and up. In addition to magazines, the marketing strategy will include television, product placement, online ads, in-store promotions, events and database marketing.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Neiman Marcus selling to investment group

Neiman Marcus

DALLAS - The Neiman Marcus Group, Inc.'s Board of Directors has agreed to sell the company to an investment group consisting of Texas Pacific Group and Warburg Pincus LLC.

Under the terms of the agreement, Texas Pacific Group and Warburg Pincus will acquire all of the outstanding Class A and Class B shares of The Neiman Marcus Group for $100 per share in cash, representing a transaction value of approximately $5.1 billion. Each of the investors will own equal stakes in the company upon completion of the transaction. The Smith family, which owns a significant percentage of the equity of the company, has entered into a separate agreement to vote its shares in favor of the merger.

Said Richard Smith, chairman of the board of The Neiman Marcus Group, "This transaction provides outstanding shareholder value and represents an endorsement of the excellent performance of our entire team."

Luxury Linens

Burt Tansky, president and CEO of The Neiman Marcus Group, said, "We are excited to announce this transaction, particularly given the strengths of Texas Pacific Group and Warburg Pincus. They share our interest in the strong future of our company. Our customers, employees, and vendors should know that now, and following the completion of this transaction, it will be business as usual. We believe that our new partners will help us continue to focus on a business plan that is dedicated to luxury leadership, financial discipline, quality, and growth."

Completion of the deal is contingent on regulatory review and approval by the shareholders of The Neiman Marcus Group and is expected to occur by Nov. 1.

Monday, May 02, 2005

CEO's see the upside

NEW YORK - The nation's chief executives grew modestly more bullish about the outlook for the U.S. economy during the first quarter of the 2005, and The Conference Board's quarterly gauge of CEO confidence inched up to a reading of 62, after falling to a level of 61 during the closing quarter of last year.

The business think tank's survey shows that CEO's assessment of current conditions improved over the last quarter. About 59 percent said current economic conditions have improved, up from 53 during the fourth quarter of 2004. Assessing the prospects for their own industries, close to 57 percent said business conditions are better this quarter, up from about 46 percent the preceding quarter.

But CEO's more jaundiced view of the short-term outlook "has not changed dramatically," The Conference Board reported.About 43 percent of business leaders expect economic conditions to improve in the coming months, down from 50 percent last quarter. Expectations for their own industries were also more subdued, with 47 percent anticipating an improvement, down from 52 percent the previous quarter. At the same time, fewer CEOs expect conditions, both economic and in their own industries, to worsen over the next six months.