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New-business activity was up in December with more accounts changing agencies, but the dollar volume of those accounts was lower. Fifty-seven accounts worth $900 million changed agencies, compared to 52 accounts worth $1.1 billion a year ago, according to William Blair & Co. The year-end total showed improvement, with $14.6 billion in billings changing agencies, up from $12.9 billion in 2001. Omnicom Group won the most new business in December and was the year's big winner.

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State of confusion: Lukewarm earnings and continued fear of war led markets to a three-month low. Investors cashed in shares at a fast clip Jan. 24 in the wake of weak corporate earnings reports and in advance of President Bush's State of the Union address on Jan. 28. For the week, only six AdMarket stocks were up; 43 were down and Primedia was unchanged.

Media and agency stocks performed relatively better after Yahoo, Dow Jones & Co. and Knight Ridder reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter results. But Interpublic Group of Cos. dropped again after it revealed securities regulators had begun a formal probe and Standard & Poor's warned it could drop its debt rating to junk status. Telecoms suffered as investors saw a weak business outlook.

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