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Good news for WPP but media share prices fall

LONDON - WPP Group saw the price target on its shares raised this morning, after a week of positive industry forecasts for advertising growth in the coming 12 months.

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Merrill Lynch said that it was raising its price target from 515p to 570p, and retaining its "buy" rating on WPP's stock.

However, with share prices falling across the board this morning, WPP failed to respond positively to the move, with its stock trading at 459.5p, down by 4.02%, or 16.75p. In London, the FTSE-100 was down by 1.82% at 3,863.5 points.

Earlier this week, media companies such as Zenith Optimedia said that advertising was likely to pick up in 2003 by 3%. Universal McCann was even more optimistic, predicting a rise of 5%, while Carat was taking a more circumspect view, saying a 2.3% rise was likely next year.

Publishing companies such as Trinity Mirror and Johnston Press said that advertising was beginning to pick up in the last quarter of the year. However, the Financial Times' publisher Pearson warned today that it saw no advertising recovery for the newspaper.

At the same time, Morgan Stanley ignored industry predictions of a recovery next year, and said that it was lowering its stance on the European media industry from "in-line" to "cautious".

Shares in Cordiant Communications were down 5.48% at 34.5p, while Aegis Group fell by 2.84% to 77p.

In Paris, Havas and Publicis Groupe were trading down. Havas was off its opening price by 1.93%, trading at €4.57, while Publicis Groupe, which was dealing with the news that creative guru Lee Garfinkel was departing the group for Omnicom-owned DDB Worldwide, was down by 1.18% at €21.74.

Trinity Mirror shares were down just 0.4% to 407.5p, still riding high on relatively good ABC news for the Daily Mirror and the appointment of IPC Media boss Sly Bailey as its new chief executive.

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