A Strong, If Uneven, Third Quarter

BUSINESS WEEK's flash report on third-quarter results signals that the fat lady hasn't sung for this earnings boom. Profits were up only 11% on a 10% revenue increase, down from a 45% hike last year on a 10% sales gain. But take out IBM (and the $1.8 billion charge related to its Lotus acquisition), and earnings jumped 18% overall. Another good sign: per-share numbers came in 4 cents higher than midquarter estimates. IBM and Apple aside, tech was a star performer, led by Intel's 41% jump and Microsoft's 58% gain. Among underachievers: the auto biz, because of declines at Ford (-68%) and Chrysler (-46%). Both have new models coming on line, so results should pick up.

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