US corporate profits rose 76 per cent in 2003, with Apple recording the largest increase in its sector, says BusinessWeek.

"Apple experienced a 552 per cent jump in annual profits to $137 million, thanks to strong sales of its computers and the iPod," according to BusinessWeek.

The basis for the revelation is BusinessWeek's Corporate Scoreboard, which examines profits for 900 companies. The Scoreboard demonstrated that these companies experienced a 76 per cent profit rise from the year before, and showed that fourth-quarter earnings were up by 322 per cent.

According to BusinessWeek this is the largest quarterly and annual profit gains since it started tallying Scoreboard results in 1973.

The report states: "As the economy bounced back, CEOs gained confidence that the long-awaited upturn was for real. They boosted spending on capital goods. The weaker dollar meant higher revenues for many multinationals.

"Only six of the 60 Scoreboard industry groups had lower sales during the year, compared with 19 in 2002."

Morgan Stanley chief economist Richard Berner said: "Rising productivity paid off in higher earnings, because far more revenue flowed to the bottom line as the economy recovered. That was the key factor in driving profit margins higher and earnings growth way past expectations."

The report claims that the resurgence in capital spending lifted tech companies sharply, as corporations began investing again in information technology. According to BusinessWeek: "Earnings for the computer industry soared 210 per cent."

IBM Chief Financial Officer John Joyce recently told investors: "2004 is the year when the IT industry will begin its next growth cycle."

However, the software industry didn't see such a sharp increase. Microsoft barely surpassed the industry's 8 per cent total annual sales gain, with an 11 per cent increase, to $34.3 billion. BusinessWeek suggests this is "because sales of PCs, where most of the company's software is placed, were sluggish until the fourth quarter".