STATE OF BUSINESS: Reading the Clues

For the experts who are trying to determine where the U.S. economy is going, the clues last week were like the first four-fifths of a mystery novel: challenging but pointing to no clear solution. Some who looked at the overall economic figures found reason for gloom in their further decline. Others who studied the earnings of individual businesses found the picture not nearly so clear-cut, the gloom not nearly so pervasive.

Total personal income rose slightly to hit a record in September, but the rise was deceptive: most of it was due to increased social security, unemployment and veterans' payments,...

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