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Employment in advertising agencies showed a 0.3% year-over-year increase in July, the first since April 2001. Total employment in the industry--including advertising, public relations, media buying and direct marketing agencies -- rose to 428,400 in July, but was still 0.3% below May's number, which benefited from an easy comparison to May 2003. Although industry observers expect the employment picture will brighten in the second half, it is too soon to declare July's slim margin an upswing in hiring. The figures are preliminary and could be revised downward when final tallies are totaled next month.

Admarket 50

Oil drops, stocks rise: A drop in the price of oil helped the stock markets chalk up a modest gain, their fifth-straight weekly increase. The oil news and a drop in the producer price index eased investors' fears of inflation and boosted blue-chip stocks. A drop in the trade deficit, signaling a stronger economy ahead, completed the economic hat trick. For the week, 31 AdMarket stocks were up and 19 were down.

The economic news charged up agency and media stocks, particularly battered shares. Publicis Groupe also got a boost from a strong first-half earnings report, with net income up 23%. The auction for Grey Global Group lifted its price to $940 a share, up 2.9% for the week. On the downside, Coca-Cola Co. dropped after a UBS downgrade and congressional questions on Pfizer's Zoloft drug depressed its stock.

Advertising Age and Bloomberg's AdMarket 50 index of 50 top publicly traded marketer, agency and media companies for the week ended Sept. 10, based on stock-trading data supplied by Bloomberg financial-news service. All comparisons are vs. closing prices Sept. 3. Full data available on Bloomberg terminals under index BAAX.

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