Secrets are being unlocked from the debris left by the bomb that rocked the World Trade Center. On March 1, the area around the 100-foot-wide crater had been shored up enough to allow investigators access.

They are looking for traces of a detonator, wiring, bits of paper that may have been wrapped around the explosives, and microscopic bits of carbon converted into diamond-like particles by the blast. Clues to the blast may also come from the heat pictures that will show the explosion's path.

No evidence has been found to confirm the use of plastic explosives, which are favored by international terrorists. Investigators have said it is unclear whether the bombing was the work of terrorists or someone else, such as a disgruntled employee. (Letter from New York, Page 9.) US economy

Mixed information on the recovery was reported March 2.

Despite the lowest mortgage rates in nearly two decades, new home sales plunged 13.8 percent in January, the biggest drop in 11 years, the government said. Analysts were positive, however, citing the high of volume mortgage applications.

Meanwhile, the government's chief forecasting gauge flashed a signal of moderate and sustained growth. The Commerce Department said March 2 its Index of Leading Indicators inched up 0.1 in January. Usually that would be viewed as near stagnation, but analysts were not concerned because it followed a large 1.7 percent jump in December, the biggest in nearly a decade. Taken together, the two months portray an economy poised to grow at a healthy 3 to 3.5 percent.

Separately, Labor Secretary Robert Reich said the Clinton administration stands ready to spend more money to stimulate the economy if the proposed $30 billion does not create enough jobs quickly.

Finally, two related sectors also reported news.

Despite wider use of cost controls, US health-care benefits rose 10 percent last year to an average of $3,968 per worker, a Foster Higgins consulting firm study found. The rate is the lowest since 1987, but is still three times ahead of inflation.

Enrollment in the food-stamp program, the nation's major personal food subsidy program, rose to a record 26.5 million in December, the Food and Nutrition Service said March 1. December was the fourth month in a row that enrollment exceeded 26 million people. Japanese economy

Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa plans to visit Washington next month for talks with President Clinton, the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun reported March 2. Quoting unnamed US and Japanese officials, it said the first summit meeting is likely to be held around April 16.

In related news, former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone March 1 told an audience at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government he expects Japan to adopt an economic stimulus package that cuts taxes and inputs some $50 billion. (Japan's economic prospects, Page. 7) NBC News chief quits

NBC News president Michael Gartner resigned March 2, a casualty of the General Motors crash debacle. As president of the division for five years, Mr. Gartner also was blamed for slashing its budget, naming the alleged victim in the William Kennedy Smith rape trial, and mishandling the "Today" morning show change in hosts from Jane Pauley to Deborah Norville. Congressman on trial

Rep. Harold Ford (D) of Tennessee, the state's only black member of Congress, went on trial for bank fraud March 1 for the second time. His defense attorneys contend that several loans were legitimate business deals. Coal miner strike

The United Mine Workers widened its month-old strike against coal mines in Appalachia and the Midwest. The strike now involves up to 9,200 miners.

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