Business: CORPORATIONS: THE 500 & HOW THEY FARED

SINCE the "Fortune 500," which ranks the nation's largest companies according to sales, first appeared in 1954, corporations on the list have moved up, down, on and off faster than naughty debutantes move out of or back into the bluebook. Last week FORTUNE published its 14th annual 500, and, with the urge to merge rampant everywhere, the ranks were more scrambled than ever.

One of the most interesting changes was right near the top, where the relative positions of the really big firms seldom alter. General Motors was still the biggest industrial corporation in the U.S., as well as in the world,...

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