Business: Big Year for the 500

By now it is scarcely news that 1976 was a banner year for big companies—but just how good it was became a bit clearer last week when FORTUNE published its annual directory of the 500 largest U.S. industrial corporations. Specifically, by one important measure of profitability it was the best year since 1968. Aggregate sales of the 500 rose 12.2%, to $971 billion; profits climbed much faster, increasing 30.4%, to $49.4 billion. That meant that the median corporate blue-blood kept 4.6¢ of every sales dollar as net income, a seemingly modest profit margin but one that had not been matched...

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