STATE OF BUSINESS: Optimism v. Facts

The crystal-ball gazers who try to chart the course of the U.S. economy usually hedge any predictions with plenty of ifs and buts. Last week the U.S. got a refreshingly different kind of forecast from Carrol M. Shanks, president of the Prudential Insurance Co., second biggest in the U.S. (first: Metropolitan Life). Said Insuranceman Shanks: "I'm optimistic. We're pretty close to the end of the downgrade, and we should see an upturn before long. Steel production will start up in March, if not sooner, because steel sales have been running ahead of...

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