Here's a news flash: The economy is slowing. While the temptation to say, "Well, duh!" is substantial, the government's report yesterday that U.S. industrial production plunged across a broad range of sectors is not just a banal recitation of the obvious.

Of course, anyone who's read the headlines knows that General Motors' (NYSE:GM) domestic sales, for example, have been struggling mightily for a while now. With the government's data showing motor vehicles and parts plummeting 8.2% last month, you might wonder if it all just amounts to underscoring what's already known.

But the news doesn't affect everyone equally. Industrial equipment maker Airgas (NYSE:ARG), for example, saw solid 8% growth in comps. Textron (NYSE:TXT), the maker of Cessna aircraft, was flying high recently, while Illinois Tool Works (NYSE:ITW) geared up a 16% increase in profits last month, once foreign tax charges were removed.

Despite the gloomy headlines and dour government reports, opportunities to make a profit remain. If you're just watching the evening news telecasts, you might miss out. For one thing, those industrial production numbers -- and in large part, GM's own declining numbers -- were hurt by the extended union strike at American Axle (NYSE:AXL). There's always more to the numbers than just the numbers themselves.

The Federal Reserve's industrial production numbers attempt to measure the economic output of three business categories: manufacturing, mining, and utilities. The numbers are then incorporated into an index, with a base year beginning in 2002. Economists try to use that to gauge the overall health of the economy. Issued in conjunction with its capacity utilization reports, the Fed gets a feel for how inflation is running. Maybe that's why Fed Chairman Bernanke has been acting so chipper lately, despite riding along the brink of recklessness.

But just because the indicators may be falling, don't assume companies can't still prosper.

MSC Industrial Direct (NYSE:MSM), a maintenance, repair, and operations parts supplier, finds that it has been able to generate rising revenue when the Institute for Supply Management's index -- another yardstick for measuring economic activity in U.S. manufacturing -- resides above 50%. Industrial parts supplier Barnes Group (NYSE:B) also keeps a weather eye on the ISM composite index. While the April report showed the index at 48.6%, the average year-to-date is just less than MSC's preferred 50% rate.

So while the news may tell you one thing, and government may say another, businesses may do yet a third thing altogether. Don't get caught up in the headlines. You could do worse than ignoring them all. Instead, focus on what your business is telling you. You may find that your portfolio ends up full of recession-beating stocks.