For starters, the third quarter of 2001 was one of the worst in recent memory. On top of recession and damage from September 11, many companies took huge write-offs that sent third-quarter profits tumbling 55%. From such a low base, the only way was up. Although many companies also took write-offs this year, the sheer magnitude was much greater in 2001. So exclude such extraordinary items from both this year's numbers and last, and the seemingly strong profit growth disappears.