Opening Bell: 4.14.06

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Who's to blame for high gas prices? (Fortune)
Leave it to some low-rent rag like Fortune to start looking for someone to blame over oil prices. Some Senators are angry, claiming that big oil is profiting from high oil prices. They're right, that's what oil companies do. They sell oil, and when people are paying so much for it, they profit from it. Someone should give these Senators a Nobel prize for their brilliant work in energy economics, and the stuff they've done on international trade with China. Funny enough, the Fortune piece actually does a good job of explaining how you can't really set the price of oil, and no policy will solve the problem -- and then recommends that government pass fuel efficiency standards to solve the problem. Notice, when oil prices jump, everyone trots out their pet issue and explains that it's the one thing that will solve the problem.
Cuban Sells Blog Search Engine (Red Herring)
Most people probably didn't realize that Mark Cuban was the owner of a seventh-rate search engine called Ice Rocket. Nobody ever seemed to use it, which made it quite funny, a year ago, when he famously threatened to take all blogspot blogs out of his index. Oh damn, there goes 2 hits every month. It's too bad, actually, that he's out of the game because you'd think he gets bored just running a basketball time. He seems to come up with a new business idea every few weeks, but other than selling broadcast.com (which never did anything) to Yahoo! at the top of the bubble, he hasn't really done much. Guess he's more of talker like us.
Revolutionary New Fed Report On Demographics (Bloomberg)
Demographics is one of those iron immoveable forces that affect the economy. As you know, we're generally in the pro-population camp here at The Opening Bell, so we have to take seriously the results of any demographic shift that dramatically reduces workers from the economy. There's a new fed report out, coming out in July that warns of big changes to the economy as Boomers retire. The study projects a slower pace of workforce growth than most economists now forecast, suggesting the economy can't keep growing at the present-day pace without generating pressure for higher wages and inflation. To prevent that, the Fed will have to enforce a lower speed limit on the economy by pushing up interest rates. So let's get this clear. The economy could grow rapidly, but workers will have to pay up more for labor? Is the job of the Fed really to make sure that workers don't get paid more... we always thought it was to prevent monetary inflation. Oh wait.


Tivo On A Roll (Marketwatch)
Tivo, the originator of the DVR, who many people thought would go out of business is on a roll. Recently, they got word that DirecTV would continue support for their boxes, and yesterday they won a patent dispute against Echostar. The stock shot up after hours. Of course, this story is far from over, and in 2007 Echostar has their own patent case coming up against Tivo. Remember though, patents help foster innovation.
Are Domains The New Black? (GigaOM)
Domain speculation is hot hot hot. Not only are companies paying records sums to get a good domain name, but it's easier than ever to simply hold a domain name, and fill it with a page of Google ads and let the money roll in. Without sounding cliched, it's the virtual real estate of the web -- and people are always going to need a place to park. Pretty soon controversial domain name registrar GoDaddy.com is going public which should bring more light to this business. Now we just need a trading exchange for these domain names.
Japanese Stocks Rise; Dollar Up Vs. Yen (AP)
Very little to add here, but isn't this the most common headline in the world?
Leisure time is growing, and becoming more unequal (Marginal Revolution)
It won't bring much joy to those of you on The Street, but leisure time is growing. Though it's often claimed that we're a society of overworked workaholic, that doesn't appear to be the case -- again, this doesn't apply to the financial sector it would seem. Contributing factors are few hours at work (again, doesn't apply to you) and fewer hours of work at home.
Retail sales rise in March, riding economic gains (Chicago Tribune)
Just last week, things were looking bad for the March numbers. Wasn't there some sort of "late Easter" or something keeping people away from the stores? Well, now look, a strong economy, including a strong labor force, kept their spending up, fueling the way for big numbers. Boy we're confused. Perhaps our problems would be solved if we ignored monthly data.
Issuers Haven't Come to Grips With Bond Flipping (Bloomberg)
We hadn't realized this was a big issue either -- apparently bond flipping is a big problem in the muni market. Just as in the IPOs of yore (well, not that yore really) new muni offerings are sometimes priced below the market rate to make them appealing to the institutional investors who pick them up. Now we're not talking dotcom stocks, so they're not priced significantly below the market -- it's a market of teenths after all. But it doesn't take much of a discount to really turn the municipalities into major losers.
Ford closings could benefit Mich. (Detroit News)
Ford announced that they'd idle two factories in Virginia and Minnesota, meaning more work for their Michigan employees. Now it's probably in poor taste to get philosophical in times like this, but everyone should stand together and remember that the proper measure of progress is jobs lost, not jobs gained. We're a modern society because of all the jobs we don't have to do anymore, not because of the jobs we still have to do. It's cold no comfort to laid-off workers, but as a whole, these are some pains we'll be better for having gone through.

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