Black Country businesses face an uncertain year, it was claimed today.

Domestic and international factors are conspiring to pile on the pressure, especially for manufacturers.

Peter Mathews, president of Black Country Chamber of Commerce, said: "There is a definite recessionary trend in the air for 2008, but the downturn may not be as bad as some people fear.

"As always, a lot depends on the situation overseas. The Chinese economy seems to be cooling, India is currently 'hot' and the US is heading towards recession. Britain will feel the pinch because of our strong links with America.

"UK interest rates will come down, but probably only in quarter per cent steps and by nowhere near enough to help British exporters. We have argued consistently that the Bank of England should be more bold, imaginative and supportive; a half-point cut in rates early in the New Year would give a real boost to industry.

"We would like to see the Monetary Policy Committee paying more attention to the needs of the people in the economy who actually make and sell things. At the moment the MPC is dominated by economists and academics who show no real understanding of the harsh realities of business.

"The rebound from the banking crisis caused by the low-cost mortgage meltdown will continue, adding to the kind of uncertainty that business hates."

Looking abroad, he said the continuing decline in US manufacturing would have an impact on the UK sector, for which America is a major market.

"Also, the dollar is so weak that our exporters are really up against it. The dollar is still the world currency and its fortunes dictate to a large extent what happens across the planet."

On a more upbeat note, he added: "These dips do happen on a regular basis and we come out of them stronger than before.

"But we are not just sitting here waiting for things to happen; the Black Country is working hard to put itself on the map."