The Ad Market

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Good news: Consumers are again optimistic about the U.S. economy. With nearly two-thirds of the U.S. economy dependent on consumer spending, that's welcome news for marketers hoping for an end to the recession. But the recovery is not a done deal yet; you would have to go back to February 2001-the month before the official start of the recession-for the last time more consumers felt the economy was in good, rather than in bad shape. Percentage of consumers rating the economy:

Markets take a break: Economic statistics keep pointing to an end of the recession, but investors remain worried about corporate earnings. Two new bits of information-a small rise in consumer prices and another drop in initial unemployment claims-continue to forecast recovery, but bad news from marketers such as Nike (disappointing results) and McDonald's Corp. (an earnings warning) kept a lid on optimism. For the week, 21 AdMarket stocks were up and 29 were down.

Optimistic ad-spending forecasts buoyed agency stocks, especially those that had been battered recently, as investors sought a cheap way to cash in on the recovery. Meanwhile, AOL Time Warner suffered from analysts' downgraded estimates due to lower-than-expected online ad revenue at its America Online unit.

Advertising Age and Bloomberg's AdMarket 50 index of 50 top publicly traded marketers, agency and media companies for the week ended March 22, based on stock trading data supplied by Bloomberg financial news service. All comparisons are based on closing prices March 15.

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