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The day after Thanksgiving marks Black Friday, the official start of the holiday shopping season and the most profitable time of year for most retailers. While most forecasts are calling for modestly improved sales-thanks to high-end electronics and apparel-consumers are still skittish about spending money. Eighty-five percent are planning to spend the same or less than they did in 2003 and the average holiday budget is relatively flat from last year's. But retailers can take heart: most polls show shoppers tend to spend more in December than they planned to in November.

Admarket 50

Greenspan spoils rally: Stocks rose mid-week on good October retail numbers and stronger consumer confidence, but warnings about rising interest rates and budget deficits from Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan torpedoed the rally and sank the U.S. dollar in international markets. Only 12 AdMarket stocks were up, 37 were down and Clear Channel Communications was unchanged.

Investors liked the news of Sears, Roebuck & Co.'s merger with Kmart Holdings (See story, P. 1). They also ate up brokerage upgrades of Altria Group and news that News Corp. will join the S&P 500 index in December. But investors were downbeat about news of Phil Knight's resignation as CEO of Nike and the appointment of an outsider in his place (See story, P. 6).

Advertising Age and Bloomberg's AdMarket 50 index of 50 top publicly traded marketer, agency and media companies for the week ended Nov. 19, based on stock trading data supplied by Bloomberg financial news service. All comparisons are vs. closing prices Nov. 12. Full data available on Bloomberg terminals under index BAAX.

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