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After a sharp drop in February and March, the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index came back up in April, as the job market appeared to gain strength. Consumers who had appeared to be trimming their outlook and spending plans for the next six months are now loosening their purse strings, but only slightly. The prospects for home sales-a big driver of consumer spending in the last three years-are looking hazy.

Admarket 50

Iraq, interest rates rock stocks: Strong earnings were not enough to trump investors' fear of increased tension in Iraq and an interest-rate hike at the Federal Reserve Board's meeting May 3. Even after Procter & Gamble Co.'s strong first-quarter report late in the week, stocks dropped across the board. Only five AdMarket stocks were up and 45 were down.

Agency and media shares took a beating, except Primedia, which posted a first-quarter profit from the sale of New York Magazine, and Meredith Corp., which had a 32% increase in net income. Among agencies, Omnicom Group was relatively unhurt, down only 0.23%, after reporting a strong first quarter. Havas dropped 6.5% even after showing organic growth, while WPP Group dropped 4.99% for the week, in spite of a better-than-expected first quarter. (See story, right)

Advertising Age and Bloomberg's AdMarket 50 index of 50 top publicly traded marketer, agency and media companies for the week ended April 30, based on stock trading data supplied by Bloomberg financial news service. All comparisons are vs. closing prices April 23. Full data available on Bloomberg terminals under index BAAX.

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