The Ad Market

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Down but not out: U.S. measured ad spending declined 3.3% in February, marking the first year-over-year decline since the ad market began recovering in May 2002. A drop was expected; February 2002 got a boost from the Super Bowl, which occurred in January this year, and from the Olympics. Year-to-date, all consumer media showed gains except network TV, held in check because there was no Olympics revenue this year. The 4.5% year-to-date gain in consumer ads is in line with spending forecasts. But year-over-year gains will be harder to get in coming months since comparisons will be against the ad market recovery that began to take shape last May.

AdMarket 50

Upside: Consumer confidence is up. Ditto for the AdMarket, as 44 of 50 stocks showed gains last week. Markets have benefited from good earnings news, with more than two-thirds of Standard & Poor's 500 companies beating analysts' first-quarter estimates. Omnicom Group missed the consensus estimate by 1¢ but voiced some optimism (see related story, top right).

The Conference Board's consumer confidence index, reacting to the end of war in Iraq, last month registered its biggest monthly increase since March 1991 (as both Persian Gulf War I and the '90-'91 recession ended). Major stock indexes in April posted their biggest monthly increases this year. But the stock market is hardly booming. Year-to-date, the AdMarket 50 and Standard & Poor's 500 are up 1% and 2%, respectively. Worst performer of the week: Cordiant Communications Group, which crashed from $2.25 to a low of 63¢ on the Allied Domecq loss before recovering a bit.

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