GE's Immelt Sees Hopeful Trends In U.S. Economy

By Steve Smith On Sep 1 2003 - 6:00am

General Electric chairman/CEO Jeff Immelt said he is hopeful about current economic trends, during a keynote speech at the AVB/Brand Source national convention, held at the Paris Hotel, here, last week.

On the current economy, Immelt said we are in the "third year of the 'post-bubble' economy," which was "going down before Sept. 11 and the war against terror." He sees "more positives than negatives" in the economy in comparison to 12 or 18 months ago, with consumer confidence increasing.

Regarding interest rates, he noted, "They have gone up in the past month, but they are historically low," and the stock market and capital markets are "better than last year." And he added, "Our government has done everything to keep the consumer buying."

The negatives of the economy are on the industrial side, with "too much manufacturing capacity for cars, planes, computers and other items. That will take time to fix." Immelt also said the "geopolitical instability will be with us for some time."

However, he sees the economy growing about 2.5 percent this year. "But we need at least 4 percent to 5 percent to begin hiring people again. We are in a period of slow economic growth," he said, adding that the "consumer side of the economy is strong."

He said that when economists take a look at this period in 20 years, vs. the economy of the late '90s, they will call it "the 'New Normal,' OK growth. That's the world that GE, and you, are competing in."

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