Opening Bell: 4.13.06

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Under New Policy, S.E.C. Will Rarely Subpoena Reporters (NYT)
The aging Ayn Rand-nik Christopher Cox must have convinced the agency of some Objectivist wisdom to get this policy through, or maybe it was his call alone. On the one hand, it's quite a relief to us here, though it's dissapointing we'll never get to see Cramer rip up a subpoena on live TV again. What's weird is that in all his years as Fed Chief, the other Objectivist, Greenspan, never got around to dissolving the Fed... yeah, weird.
Philadelphia Exchange Shooting For IPO (Reuters)
It's getting to be that the Opening Bell just writes itself. Well, at least there's always a stock exchange going public story to cover. Today it's Philadelphia, which most well known for putting together an index semiconductor stocks, though we assume there has to be more than that. Actually, the exchange has experienced a strong revival under the able hand of Charman Sandy Frucher, who took the helm in 1998. If they do indeed go public watch this name closely.
Merrill Lynch warns staff on ethical behavior (FT)
Just in case someone else at Merrill was thinking of breaking the law, management has a stern warning for employees: don't. As much fun as this whole fiasco has been (yeah, it doesn't get much better than Croatian grannies, strippers, Reebok, moles in printing plants and Indie films), it seems to expose the nonsense that is insider trading laws. For one thing, they only identify when someone engages in illegal action as opposed to illegal inaction. What about all the people who were about to sell, but then decided not to after getting an insider tip? How many of them are sitting in a jail cell somewhere? And is BusinessWeek really 'inside'? Shouldn't this mainly be a matter of BusinessWeek security, as opposed to the SEC? Just wondering.


Advanced Micro Posts Biggest Profit in Five Years (Bloomberg)
That plucky chip upstart posted strong marketshare-gaining sales once again, but alas there's always future guidance which wasn't so hot. At the moment the company's chips are still the best on the market, but going forward, Intel is seen as having a strong roadmap and pipeline. The chip game is a size game; a slipup is much more devastating to a small player than an enormous one, and eventually order is restored.
Google Chief Rejects Putting Pressure on China (NYT)
It doesn't make sense that the Google in China story is flaring up again. We already know that despite the controversy, Google had deemed it worthwhile to go into China when weighed against the political and ethical implications. So, of course, the CEO will defend the company's actions when asked. What'd people expect him to say, "I regret it now, but what's done is done"? If you still have any question about whether Google is doing the right thing, just think of whether the Chinese people were made worse off by Google's participation in that market. We think not -- and, hey, at least they can read Dealbreaker. That's more rights than some in Manhattan have.
Wal-Mart Sticks With Fast Pace Of Expansion Despite Toll on Sales (WSJ)
This company really is ruthless. Not only do they compete with all those "little mom & pops" (read: high priced stores that haven't innovated in years), they also open up new stores to compete with older Wal-Marts. They're not worried about cannibalizing old sales if the net effect on sales is positive. And even though the decor inside most Wal-Marts is somewhere between miserable and horrendous, they want all CAPEX to go to increasing square footage, as opposed to renovation. This furthers the idea that same-store sales figures don't mean a whole lot for a company like this, and month-to-month data is even less meaningful.
Quote Of The Day: Enron Edition (Houston Chronicle) (via Naked Shorts)
After a long explanation to jurors about how Enron functioned financially, he said that the accusations are based on misreading how the one-time energy giant really worked. Skilling said that at Enron only two numbers could accurately correlate to the company's worth: Volume and head count. He said using simple stats such as sales dollars to assess the value of the company did not work because of Enron's complex business, which in part counted on hedging widely fluctuating prices.
Ghosn: Hybrids Could See Sales Slowdown (AP)
Perhaps one of the struggling US automakers should try wooing Carlos Ghosn away from Nissan. He's not a follower, doesn't like taking advice, thinks the industry should stop wasting money, and isn't worried about upsetting employees. Granted Detroit's problems are probably several orders of magnitude greater than Nissan's were, but he seems better than a Wagoner or a Lutz.
Discounters may be losing their cost advantage (USA Today)
All hail bankruptcy court. The bloated mess of the US aviation industry is now just a mess, as many of the incumbent airlines are finally reducing their bloat. It also means more pricing pressure on the industry and more pain for the discounters. On the other hand, it's great for consumers, which you should point out anytime someone says that airline deregulation wasn't somehow an unmitigated success.

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