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2004 Forecast for S&P 500 Is 1160 Mid-year, 1190 by Year End


          Also Forecasts Industries Which Are Expected to Outperform
                           Over the Next 12 Months

NEW YORK, Dec. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Stocks are poised for continued gains through 2004, according to Standard & Poor's in the 2004 Annual Forecast issue of its weekly investment advisory newsletter for individuals and financial professionals, The Outlook, available this week. The mid-year 2004 forecast for the S&P 500 Index is 1160, with an expectation that the benchmark will reach a 2004 close at 1190.

"Several factors lead us to conclude that stocks should post continued gains through the end of 2004," says Joseph Lisanti, editor-in-chief, The Outlook, from Standard & Poor's, the leading global provider of independent investment research, indices and ratings. "We foresee the U.S. economy continuing to grow, at a rate of 4.7% in 2004, which should lead to strong corporate profits and, therefore, lead to higher stock prices. We have already seen improving earnings quality, as evidenced by the narrowing gap between Standard & Poor's Core Earnings and operating earnings."

"History also supports the view of continued stock price gains in 2004. Since the end of World War II, stocks have posted gains almost 80% of the time in the fourth year of a presidential cycle, and the fourth year in the cycle also shows an average gain of almost 9%. In addition, the S&P 500 has gained about 13% on average as a bull market moves from its first anniversary, which was marked in 2003, to its second anniversary, which we anticipate to occur in the fourth quarter of 2004. Lastly, a lack of attractive alternative investments -- in an environment of low bond yields and money market yields below the inflation rate -- suggests to us that stocks should have a positive year," concludes Lisanti.

The Annual Forecast edition of The Outlook also names the investment research firm's suggestions for stocks, all ranked five-STARS "Buy" by Standard & Poor's equity analysts, that are particularly attractive for capital gains over the next 12 months, and the Master List of recommended equity issues by investment objective, such as long-term capital appreciation and long-term total return.

The Outlook offers readers new investment ideas on a weekly basis, and the annual issue also offers investors a look at the eight industries that Standard & Poor's equity research team expects to outperform over the next 12 months.

About Standard & Poor's The Outlook

Standard & Poor's The Outlook is an online and print newsletter providing generalized market information for use by individuals and financial professionals. The Outlook provides unbiased research, investment ideas, and market perspective including buy, hold and sell recommendations of the approximately 1,200 U.S. stocks ranked according to Standard & Poor's STARS (STock Appreciation Ranking System), authoritative analyses, and easy-to- follow charts, graphs and tables for quick reference. The Outlook is also available under license for private-label applications. A 30-day free trial for the online version of The Outlook is available at www.spoutlookonline.com.

There is also a 3-month offer, which costs $39; this includes the print edition as well as full access to Outlook Online. The basic annual subscription for Standard & Poor's The Outlook is $298. This subscription includes print and full online access to The Outlook, and monthly access to 10 Standard & Poor's Stock Reports or Mutual Fund Reports. For more information, visit www.spoutlookonline.com or call

About Standard & Poor's Independent Equity Research

Fourteen of Standard & Poor's equity analysts were honored in the 11th annual Wall Street Journal "Best on the Street" 2003 analysts survey. Standard & Poor's equity research ranked #2 overall, and was #1 among independent equity research firms. Five analysts placed first in their respective industries, one placed second, two placed third, and six were highlighted as honorable mentions.

Standard & Poor's analytic services are performed as entirely separate activities in order to preserve the independence of each analytic process. In this regard, STARS, which are published by Standard & Poor's Equity Research Services, operates independently from, and has no access to information obtained by Standard & Poor's Rating Services, which may in the course of its operations obtain access to confidential information.

Standard & Poor's, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE: MHP), is the world's foremost provider of independent credit ratings, indices, risk evaluation, investment research, data and valuations. With 5000 employees located in 20 countries, Standard & Poor's is an essential part of the world's financial infrastructure and has played a leading role for more than 140 years in providing investors with the independent benchmarks they need to feel more confident about their investment and financial decisions. For more information, visit www.standardandpoors.com.

                  Industries With Above-Average Potential *
   Standard & Poor's Equity Analysts Expect These Industries to Outperform
                           Over the Next 12 Months


                           Communications Equipment
                           Diversified Financial Services
                           Food Distributors
                           Health Care Equipment
                           Specialty Stores
                           Wireless Telecom

*Investors should seek financial advice before investing based on the portfolio. This portfolio does not address the specific investment objectives, financial situation, and particular needs of any person. Stocks in the portfolio will not be suitable for all investors. The above information does not constitute an offer to buy or a recommendation of any investment or securities mentioned in the article.

SOURCE  Standard & Poor's

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