The Outlook: Profits -- and Pessimism

Economists' forecasts are generally upbeat, but many frontline execs continue to see no return to high growth any time soon

Don't talk to business executives about last year's mild downturn. Although many economists don't even qualify the slump as a true recession, for corporations the past year has been nothing less than a disaster. After nine straight years of increases, operating profits for the companies of the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index plunged 31% last year, in what has been called the worst corporate slump since the end of World War II.

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