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New business activity improved slightly in May, with fewer accounts changing hands, but more billings in play. Forty-one accounts worth $1.2 billion changed hands in the month, compared to 50 accounts worth $900 million during the same time in 2002. With the end of the war in Iraq and signs of stability creeping into the economic picture, new business activity may perk up in coming months. According to an analysis by William L. Blair, May marked the first time in nine months where a larger portion of top 100 advertisers revised earnings forecasts upwards, rather than downwards. The milestone bids well for ad spending in coming months, since corporate earnings have been a key factor on ad spending during this downturn.

AdMarket 50

Stocks rise on high hopes: Stock markets rose early in the week, pushed by investors looking forward to a strong earnings-reporting season, but sagged midweek as many chose to cash in their gains. A late-week surge, driven by analyst upgrades of Intel Corp. and a comforting outlook from General Electric Co., led to a weekly gain. For the week, 32 AdMarket stocks were up, 18 were down.

Agency and media stocks rose to the top of the AdMarket 50, but newspaper companies suffered as several analysts reduced outlooks for the industry, given weaker-than-expected second quarter ad linage. Among marketers, Altria Group-the former Philip Morris Cos.-dropped after wholesalers sued over its cigarette pricing and Coca-Cola Co. sank after federal prosecutors launched a fraud probe of its market testing, but PepsiCo surged on a report of rising earnings.

Advertising Age and Bloomberg's AdMarket 50 index of 50 top publicly traded marketer, agency and media companies for the week ended July 11, based on stock trading data supplied by Bloomberg financial news service. All comparisons are vs. closing prices July 3.

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