Trade Group: Consumer Electronics Growth to Top Forecast

U.S. consumer electronics (search) sales will grow by 8.1 percent this year, sharply ahead of previous forecasts and more than three times 2003 levels, an industry trade group said on Monday.

The gains in the industry, whose sales reached about $96 billion in 2003, are being spurred by the popularity of video products such as high-definition televisions and portable audio devices, like MP3 digital music players, according to the Consumer Electronics Association (search).

"There has been tremendous growth in digital television, computers and flat panel (products)" Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive of Arlington, Va.-based CEA, told Reuters in an interview.

In January, CEA had forecast that the wholesale electronics market in 2004 would rise to over $100 million, up about 4 percent over 2003. Sales rose 2.3 percent in 2003, rebounding from three years of negative or minimal growth.

CEA, the U.S. trade group that represents audio, video and mobile electronics makers, forecasts industry growth every January and revises its forecast in August.

CEA expects in coming weeks to release its full revised estimates for 2004, Shapiro said.

The Consumer Electronics Association's estimates cover factory-to-dealer shipments, or wholesale figures. With the retail mark-up, the actual amount spent by consumers on electronic gadgets is far in excess of $100 billion each year.