Pessimism may still rule the corporate world in 2013 but results from the latestEconomist/FT Global Business Barometer suggest that businesses may be finding their way out of the gloom. Although only 22% of those polled in October expect business conditions to improve, this figure is up from a bleak 14% a year earlier.
Overall confidence, measured as the balance of executives who think the global economy will improve against those who expect it to worsen, rose from the subterranean minus 39 of 2012 to reach minus 11 for 2013.
Executives in the Middle East and Africa are particularly optimistic. One in three believe the next six months will bring improvement.
The main driver of gloom remains economic and market risk. Although these fears have dropped 12% over the last year it is still a key concern for 63% of those polled. Meanwhile a shortage of skilled labour concerns nearly a third of all executives.
Worries over the euro zone persist, with Europeans far more confident in its stability than the rest of the world. Overall 29% of executives expect Greece to leave in the coming year and 8% expect Spain's exit.
The ray of sunshine peeking through the cloud is the impending demise of the necktie in the workplace.
* The Economist/FT Global Business Barometer is a quarterly survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit of more than 1,500 senior executives.