African-American-owned businesses take in some $70 billion in revenue in a year, but are statistically invisible, according to Keith Green, ING's senior vice president for domestic emerging markets.

ING has now changed that with the introduction of the Gazelle Index, which measures the business activity and confidence of African-American business owners and has been endorsed by the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

The index will prove helpful to fund companies and financial advisers alike, Green said. "They can't successfully address the issues of this group unless they are armed with information. What are the important economic concerns? What capital investments are they making?," he said.

ING will be updating the index quarterly, based on four questions asked of 350 African-American business owners that cover respondents' optimism, business activity and employment changes. ING has been collecting data since the second quarter of 2002.

In the fourth quarter of 2002, the index measured 44.0 (100, the top number, signifies perfect economic conditions), down from 49.5 in the third quarter.

More data and details on the Gazelle Index are available at www.INGGazelleIndex.com.

In another study, Boston-based consulting and research firm Celent found opportunities in the Hispanic-American and Asian-American markets. The spending power for each group is growing between 8% and 10% annually, much faster than the general population, according to Celent. Yet their use of financial products lags.

"Financial services providers need to expand their ethnic market strategies beyond the core three Rs' of recruiting, riting and real estate," said Matthew Josefowicz, co-author of the report and manager of Celent's insurance group.

Copyright 2003 Thomson Media Inc. All Rights Reserved.

(http://www.mfmarketnews.com)

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