By John S. McClenahen The year 2003 is less than three months old, and economists around the world are revising their growth projections, mainly lowering them. A case in point: BNP Paribas SA, a Paris-based financial firm, has just lowered to 0.8% from 1.2% its GDP growth forecast for the 12 European Union countries that use the euro as their currency. "Market consensus expectations -- currently at 1.5% for 2003 -- remain way too optimistic in our view," says London-based Ken Wattret, BNP Paribas' chief Euroland market economist. "Recovery is still forecast for the second half of the year, as waning uncertainty and declining inflation should give a boost to consumer demand," he says. "Risks, however, remain skewed to the downside, given geopolitical concerns [a war against Iraq], the resurgence of the euro [against the U.S. dollar], and fragile business and consumer confidence."