Weighing on the new year’s fiscal forecast are ongoing debt problems in Europe; improving but unsteady growth in developing nations; and tremendous political uncertainty over taxes, debt and deficits in the United States. These all add up to expectations for another ho-hum year.

There is a twist that makes 2013 different than the two prior years, however. During 2011 and 2012, optimism was high that things were turning around, only to give way to a sobering reality later in the year.

“I think that when we look at 2013, maybe the overall growth rate is not going to be a whole lot different, but I am more optimistic that we will exit 2013 on a stronger note,” said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist for forecaster IHS Global Insight. “I think we have an underlying acceleration just starting up.”