Jim Armitage: Businesses still need that elusive recovery

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Outlook Bump, scrape, bump. That's the sound the world economy is making these days as it listlessly drags along the bottom of a long downturn cycle.

Britain might be showing signs of improvement – hardly surprising given we had one of the sharpest declines. But continental Europe is only healing slowly and remains a troubled region of indebted countries with indebted banks. More worryingly for our exporters, emerging markets are struggling to retain the turbo-charged growth they had before the phrase "QE tapering" came into being.

Yesterday saw another trio of big consumer brands businesses warning about their emerging markets operations: computing behemoth IBM and drinks groups Diageo and Remy Cointreau. They follow Unilever, Adidas and others recently struggling to retain strong sales growth in such regions as Asia and Latin America.

An added twist to the bitter cocktail for Diageo and Cointreau in China has been that bribes of top-notch liquor are no longer allowed openly to oil the wheels of state contracts (although it's not quite clear why it took these two companies so long to be affected when Burberry and Co were warning a year ago).

Goldman Sachs' fortunes are inextricably linked to such multinationals, and its figures yesterday told a similar tale – of clients scaling back business and a deals dearth. Bankers say recent weeks have seen something of a pick-up, and the US debt deal will surely help. But for now, wherever you look, the recovery for big companies' sales remains elusive.

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