PROFITS: Strange Case of the 500

Though the stock market is supposed to mirror major trends in the U.S. economy, every experienced investor knows that the reflection is often distorted, to say the least. Rarely if ever, though, have the profits of major companies and the prices of their stocks gone off in such totally opposite directions as they did during 1973.

FORTUNE'S annual directory of the nation's 500 largest industrial corporations shows that their total sales went up 19.6% and their profits 39% from 1972. Both gains were the biggest in the 20-year history of the survey. Oil companies, not surprisingly, posted the largest profit gains,...