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Plastic Lens
By Bill Barol

(FORTUNE Small Business) – Most readers don't look to trade magazines to track the latest economic trends, but perhaps they should. For instance, take a glance at the November issue of Injection Molding magazine (immnet.com), which covers the technology by which goods from sneakers to auto parts are fabricated from molten plastic. If you read nothing else, you'll still know that offshore cost cutting is leading to a yawning trade deficit (imports of plastics grew four times faster than exports between 1997 and 2002), that innovation is still a source of optimism (see "Would You Believe Molded Wood?"), and that defense is the country's hottest industry (at least that's the picture painted by "Crisis or Opportunity?," which describes the market for the domes of Hellfire missiles). Who knew that plastic goo could be so informative? --B.B.