The Ad Market

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Flatness in both major indices: Investors still seem chary of more accounting bad news, but serious action lurks in media stocks as a major court decision and comments from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell cast increasing doubt on the tenability of cross-ownership regulations. This made many newspaper stocks hot again and vaulted Meredith Corp., which has broadcast and magazine properties, into the top five. The week was less kind to AOL Time Warner, which hit lows not seen since 1998 in the wake of a key analyst downgrading the stock. Twenty-three stocks in the AdMarket 50 gained, two were flat and 25 declined.

Advertising Age and Bloomberg's AdMarket 50 index of 50 top publicly traded marketers, agency and media companies for the week ended Feb. 22, 2002, based on stock trading data supplied by Bloomberg financial news service. All comparisons are based on closing prices Feb. 15.

Just as economists follow consumer confidence, agency executives say corporations' confidence is a good measure of prospects for ad spending. Many were encouraged when earnings misses and warnings dropped in November, after a Sept. 11-related spike in October. It had looked as if the recession was hitting bottom, but January's misses were almost identical to those in January 2001. So the cycle goes on.

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