Ad Watch

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The decline in advertising agency employment appears to have bottomed out. Total employment in the industry-including advertising, public relations, media buying and direct marketing agencies-rose 428,100 in December, up 0.2% from November's numbers and up 0.5% from the year-ago total. On average, agency employment was down 1.1% for the year, but that trend is positive, as well, after an 8.4% drop in 2002 and 2.6% in 2003. If this trend holds, agency jobs could begin to grow again this year.

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Drugs can't get markets high: Investors were spooked mid-week after Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan hinted interest rates will keep rising. Stocks rallied later, thanks to a pharmaceutical surge when federal authorities cleared several arthritis drugs to return to the market. But the rally could not make up for investors' queasiness about inflation, due to an unexpected surge in the Producer Price Index. For the week, 20 AdMarket stocks were up and 30 were down.

Investors bid up shares of Primedia after it sold its unit and dropped the buyer, New York Times Co. Direct marketer Catalina Marketing Corp. rose after appointing a new chief financial officer. Publicis Groupe dropped on news of the defection of a key account team at its Saatchi unit, but word that the team may jump to Interpublic Group of Cos. was no help to that company's stock (see story, P. 1).

Advertising Age and Bloomberg's AdMarket 50 index of 50 top publicly traded marketer, agency and media companies for the week ended Feb. 18 based on stock trading data supplied by Bloomberg financial news service. All comparisons are vs. closing prices Feb. 11. Full data available on Bloomberg terminals under index BAAX.

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