A Jekyll And Hyde Economy

Consumers are still driving demand, but Asia is hurting manufacturers

It's the economy with two faces. The Asian financial crisis is knifing through U.S. manufacturing, cutting exports to the bone and slashing commodity prices. Companies such as Polaroid are curbing shipments until swelling inventories can be sold. Profits are harder to come by. Yet service companies are scrounging for help: Manpower Inc. says white-collar hiring leaped 13% in the spring. Wages are up smartly, as are incomes. The stock market is booming, interest rates are low, and Americans are buying--producing happy retailers and the biggest housing boom in a decade.

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