These are trying times for advisors and clients alike. Investor and consumer sentiment surveys paint a pessimistic picture. Yet companies, at least big companies, are still churning out big profits. With 97% of the firms in the S&P 500 reporting third quarter earnings by press time, profits are on track to set a record. What's more, the old record was set in the second quarter.

This creates an unusual situation, says Jim Swanson, chief investment strategist at MFS Investment Management. He says that big companies have become efficient enough that they don't need a robust economy anymore.

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