The Ad Market

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After dropping in January, agency employment seemed to stabilize in February, rising slightly to 181,700 nationwide. But with most agency companies expecting a weak first quarter as a result of the war anxiety, headcount growth will be hard to come by in the coming months.

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War rally in retreat: Stocks edged up early in the week thanks to good war news, but with the fall of Baghdad, investors focused again on the economic picture. The combination of continued economic bad news and more grim corporate forecasts sent stocks lower. For the week, 31 AdMarket stocks were up and 19 were down.

Media companies performed relatively better, as investors anticipate the war's end will lift the uncertainty of the last two months. AOL Time Warner gained some ground after several analysts upgraded their forecasts for the company, while downgrades hit Microsoft Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores. Altria Group also recovered some ground on news of progress in the negotiations to reduce a $12 billion bond to appeal a verdict against its cigarette marketing. McDonald's Corp. also recovered, even as its sales slump went into its 13th month.

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