THE RECOVERY: Hearing the Sweet Ring of Prosperity

Of all the bright sounds of spring this year, few are more reassuring to businessmen and election-minded politicians than the persistent jangle of the nation's cash registers. From Maine to Southern California, Americans seem to have shucked their recession-bred caution and set off on a buying binge. The spending spree is swelling sales of almost everything from cars and clothing to houses and appliances, and it has become the biggest single booster behind the rapidly recovering U.S. economy.

Some signs of a leveling off in the rocketing rise in demand are now...

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