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Consumer spending makes up two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, and consumers have become more conservative spenders during this recession, to marketers' dismay. But U.S. households seem to be loosening the purse strings, just in time for back-to-school shopping. For the first time in two years, more consumers say they plan to spend more in the coming months, rather than less.

AdMarket 50

Recession's end is no bonanza: A panel of economists declared the U.S. recession ended in November 2001, but the news sparked no rally, after mixed earnings reports put a cork on investors' interest. Stocks ran up earlier in the week, based on improving retail sales figures and encouraging remarks from Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan. But the indexes turned later in the week and ended flat, as Ford Motor Co., Kraft Foods, General Motors Corp. and Altria Group all posted weak earnings. For the week, 25 AdMarket stocks were up and 25 were down.

Media and agency companies were mixed, after newspapers reported results. (See story, right.) Altria fell after a judge ruled it will have to put up a bond to appeal a suit. Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Intel Corp. rose on healthy earnings reports.

Advertising Age and Bloomberg's AdMarket 50 index of 50 top publicly traded marketer, agency and media companies for the week ended July 18, based on stock trading data supplied by Bloomberg financial news service. All comparisons are vs. closing prices Ju1y 11.

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