Not so Nifty AdMarket 50

Ad Index Down 32% in 2008. Best Performer? Hint: What Retailer Is Synonymous With Value?

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Even in a recession, consumers consume, but they watch their pennies. Care to guess the AdMarket 50's standout performer for 2008? Wal-Mart Stores, which managed a year-to-date gain of 17.3% as shoppers bought into its value-priced pitch.

Only one other AdMarket stock eked out a gain: McDonald's Corp., up 2.4%. Burgers and fries sell in good times and bad.

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For the rest of the AdMarket, 2008 was a disaster, with the remaining 48 marketer, media and agency stocks down in the double digits.

Consumer staples and drugs -- Johnson & Johnson, Wyeth, Procter & Gamble Co., Kraft Foods, Kellogg Co. -- did comparatively well, each down less than 20%. No surprise; consumers are still buying Crest and Corn Flakes.

Worst performer: newspaper publisher McClatchy Co., which plunged 91.8%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and Ad Age/Bloomberg AdMarket 50 plunged 47.5% and 43.1%, respectively, from the October '07 all-time highs to November '08 bear-market nadir. Microsoft hit its lowest price since 1998; News Corp., lowest since '92; Interpublic Group, lowest since '87.

Was that the true bear-market bottom? Stay tuned. With a great recession still playing out, it's pretty early to be counting on economic -- or stock market -- recovery.

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