Profits: Torrid Turns Tepid In The First Quarter

There was no way sizzling profit performance could go on forever. And it didn't

Not long ago, Corporate America was racking up stellar earnings numbers the way Michael Jordan pumps in points--showing few signs of wear, despite having been at it forever. Today? Well, at least Jordan is still going strong. But take out the one-time $16 billion gain Ford Motor Co. booked from the spin-off of its Associates First Capital Corp. finance arm, and net income rose only 4% in 1998's first quarter for the 900 companies on BUSINESS WEEK's Corporate Scoreboard. Sales rose a relatively tepid 7%. Back in 1997's first quarter, net income grew a sizzling 21%--about what you would get for the '98 first quarter if you included Ford's dazzling special gain.

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