Ad Company Stocks Bloodied in Wednesday Trading

NEW YORK — Stocks of the biggest advertising holding companies took a beating Wednesday, with Omnicom down 4.42, or 7.8 percent, at 52.28; WPP Group off 1.63, or 4.7 percent, at 32.82, and Interpublic Group of Cos. down 1.54, to 15.41 for a 9 percent loss. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq Composite Index were off about 2 percent.

Several observers pointed to a Dow Jones Newswire story published in the afternoon that blamed investor skittishness on bad earnings news from two small marketing companies. Advo, a Wilton, Conn., direct marketer, lowered earnings guidance for the fourth-quarter, predicting earnings of 55 to 59 cents a share, well below analysts’ expectations. Earlier guidance had estimated 65 to 70 cents a share.

Catalina Marketing of St. Petersburg lower estimates for its second-quarter and fiscal 2003 earnings. Catalina shares were battered 36 percent Wednesday, closing down 10.07 to 17.90. Advo was down just 2.4 percent, losing .69 to close at 28.