Compared with the crisis in the pork market, beef's economy is in good shape. But measured against producer profitability, beef's economy remains disappointing. Any modest gains found during November were erased during December, and the trend suggests improvements will come slowly during the coming months. Beef's year-long recession is expected to end during 1999, but the industry must still work through heavy supplies of cattle on feed through the year's first quarter. Even then, burdensome supplies of pork and poultry will weigh heavy on beef prices. Production costs, although slightly higher last month, remain a positive factor for producers. But improvements to beef profitability are tied to cattle prices, which will only improve when supplies decline.