BUSINESS EXPECTS SALES, PROFITS TO REMAIN STRONG

BUSINESS EXPECTS SALES, PROFITS TO REMAIN STRONG

Most businesses expect sales, profits and prices to remain strong in the second quarter, according to Dun & Bradstreet Corp.'s latest national survey of 1,500 executives nationwide.

The survey was released amid indications of continued strength in the economy during the current quarter from the latest government and industry reports on industrial production, housing starts, auto and light truck sales and retail sales.Expectations for higher sales and profits are still at the highest levels since 1984, when the current business expansion was at its peak, said Joseph W. Duncan, corporate economist and chief statistician for Dun & Bradstreet.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the government reported that housing construction posted the biggest increase in more than a year as new projects climbed by 8.9 percent in February.

The Commerce Department said the increase last month pushed construction activity to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.49 million units.

The increase followed declines of 1.9 percent in January and 15.8 percent in December.

Those back-to-back monthly declines, which left housing starts at their slowest pace since the end of the last recession, had raised fears of a possible new economic downturn in the wake of the record collapse of the stock market in October.