Recovery for Real?

Six surprising signs--like underwear sales--that point to yes

Economists often cite job losses and stock performance to assess the state of the economy. But boxer briefs? It's not as crazy as it sounds. Because underwear buys are so steady, even a small drop could signal a major downturn. "We should've known something was rotten when sales stopped cold [in 2009]," says Marshal Cohen, head retail analyst at NPD Group. Good thing underwear is rebounding--alongside beauty salons, mobile homes, cable TV and other surprising sectors that forecast a real recovery.

Underwear 6.6%

Yearly sales jumped 6.6% in 2011. PROGNOSIS: Great! According to the Underwear Index--an economic principle championed by Alan...

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