U.S. BUSINESS STAYS UPBEAT
Measures of U.S. business sentiment still point to strong growth. Dun & Bradstreet Corp.'s latest nationwide survey of executives shows rising hopes for sales, profits, and hiring in this quarter. Indeed, indexes of price expectations and employment intentions hit their highs for the current expansion.
Meanwhile, the National Federation of Independent Business reports that small-business optimism surged to a cyclical high during the fourth quarter, as did capital-spending plans. December's hiring plans also stayed near record levels. The political climate hasn't hurt, since the NFIB helped shape the GOP's Contract With America.BY GENE KORETZ