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Growth in advertising agency employment looks as if it's gaining traction. Total employment in the industry-including advertising, public relations, media buying and direct marketing agencies-held stable at 430,600 in November, flat from October's numbers and from the year-ago total. That makes the third positive month in a row for the industry and the best growth pattern since the beginning of 2001.

Admarket 50

Merger mania: Acquisitions loomed large as investors sold off Procter & Gamble Co. after it announced a run at Gillette Co., and AT&T Corp. rose following reports of merger talks with SBC Corp. Add in disappointing fourth-quarter growth in the gross domestic product and more worries about Iraq, and it made for a lackluster week. Twenty-six AdMarket 50 stocks were up and 24 were down.

Newspaper companies sank to the bottom of the index, in spite of quarterly reports that beat analysts' estimates; Wall Street is forecasting hard times ahead for publishers. Among agencies, WPP Group was up after European regulators approved its acquisition of Grey Global Group and Digitas rose in spite of posting a 5% drop in fourth-quarter earnings and appointing a new chief financial officer.

Advertising Age and Bloomberg's AdMarket 50 index of 50 top publicly traded marketer, agency and media companies for the week ended Jan. 28, based on stock trading data supplied by Bloomberg financial news service. All comparisons are vs. closing prices Jan. 21. Full data available on Bloomberg terminals under index BAAX.

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