The big profit balloon looks to be losing air. Corporate earnings actually dropped 2%, on an 8% sales gain, in BUSINESS WEEK's flash report on 83 companies' fourth quarter. This after just 11% growth in the third quarter. The blame rests largely with a few big accounting charges: McDonnell Douglas took a $1.8 billion hit, and Amoco, Chevron, and Texaco wrote off a combined $1.7 billion in impaired assets. Exclude those, and overall profits were up 13%. The winners: High-tech giants, led by IBM's 39% profit gain, and Intel's 133% surge.
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