As the outlook in Asia improves, the U.S. economy seems set to grow at a pace defying the experts. One reason: Businesses are escaping productivity crunches.

The U.S. economy, just off a spectacular 1999, is poised to confound the pessimists again in 2000. By rapidly increasing their productivity, American businesses are making it possible for the economy to run faster than its erstwhile speed limit. Growth has averaged more than 4% for the past three years, yet inflation has been dormant. In 1999, consumer prices rose just 2.2%, even though oil prices doubled.

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