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I've seen/heard these terms in various writings & broadcasts lately. What do they mean?

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    A small suggestion, could you rewrite your question and add a few sentences describing what context you heard those terms in? Just to make it a more complete question. – MrChrister Jun 17 '12 at 18:28
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The term "tailwinds" describes some condition or situation that will help move growth higher. For example, falling gas prices will help a delivery company be more profitable. Lower gas prices is said to be a tailwind for the freight services industry.

"Headwinds" are just the opposite. Its a situation what will make growth more difficult. For example, if the price of beef goes much higher, McDonald's is facing headwinds.

It's a nautical term. If the wind is at your back (tailwind), that will help you move forward more quickly. If you are moving into a headwind, that will only make progress more difficult.

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Headwinds in an economic situation represent events or conditions e.g. a credit crisis, rising costs, natural disasters, etc, that slow down the growth of an economy. So headwinds are negative. Tailwinds are the opposite and help to increase growth of an economy.

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