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Opening Bell: 4.21.06

Google dazzles Wall Street (Mercury News)
It was another blowout performance from Google, whose revenues jumped nearly 80%. That's, well, staggering. If you recall, in late February, investors got unnerved after entirely predictable comments from their CFO about how growth would inevitably have to slow. Actually, he said that Google might feel the effect of large numbers. Uh, about that. The "law of large numbers" has nothing to do with slowing growth rates, and it has everything to do with the fact that statistical anomalies smooth themselves out over many iterations of an event; e.g. over a million coin flips, heads are more likely to be represented 50% of the time, than if you just flip 20 times. That should have been a clue right there, not to trade on the words of George Reyes.
Ford Posts $1.2 Billion Loss, Restructuring Cited (AP)
Question time -- how does a company that is in one of the deepest, most profound slumps that a company has ever faced, just start a massive restructuring now, in q1 '06? It seems obvious that there's very little, one-timey about big charges like this, these days... that the company is bleeding a lot of money as a cost of doing business. In fact, yesterday, GM reported a relatively narrow loss, of just a few hundred million. Didn't that seem like the rare one-time event? It sure did here. They should have made a not that the lack of charges couldn't be relied upon going forward.
The Oracle's Replacement (WSJ)
Worth Civils (?) at The Journal passes on an interesting point about Berkshire Hathaway once The Oracle from Omaha has moved on. One of the advantages that Berkshire Hathaway has is that managers like to be acquired by the company, because often Warren Buffet lets them stay on. In fact, if you read through any of his annual shareholder letters, he really plays up the important of personnel -- how nice it is to get a good manager, and then give them a lot of cash to play with. So when he's gone, the next chief won't be able to find as many bargains, unless managers trust that they can sell out to the company, without fearing their job.
JP Morgan Settles IPO Suit (NYT)
What? In 2006, there's still a lawsuit going on about stupid investors paying out the nose for dotcom IPOs? Apparently there is, and it's going to cost JP Morgan $425 million to settle. It's hard to follow the various lawsuits and fines relating to the excesses of the 90's. If history is any guide, we'll be hearing about various cases, winding their way through the court system, for a long long time. Here's another guess -- the big winners aren't going to be the people who lost their money, but the lawyers representing them. Yeah, easy guess.

Lay-Skilling, Week Twelve (Houston's Clear Thinkers)
Fridays are real treats if, like us, you've been riveted by Houston Attorney Tom Kirkendall's coverage of the Lay-Skilling trial. Today he has his week 12 wrapup, which is certainly worth a read. Though New York's local fishwraps (The Journal & The Times), seem to have made up their mind sometime ago about the guilt of the defendants, Kirkendall sees this the other way, and makes a extraordinarily compelling case.
Hot Social News Site Alleged To Be A Fraud (ForeverGeek)
Local media/blog/web2.0/newspaper guru Jeff Jarvis (advisor to the New York Times) has warned newspapers that the future of their industry is represented by a site called Digg, which supposedly lets users edit the news, picking the stories they want to see on the front page. We have a message for any newspaper exec's or industry analysts -- you may have some big problems, but Digg is not one of them. For one thing, the site is a total piece of rubbish. If all of the sudden, people wanted to stop reading about the news, but instead wanted to read stories about how someone spent a month of their lives getting Apple's OSX to run on a DELL, then perhaps they're read Digg. Otherwise it's junk and now there are allegations that the managers manipulate the stories that appear on the front page. Hmm, not so user generated after all. They of course deny it, but the story could be fun, and they may take a hit to their reputation.
"China rocks!" (Randy Baseler)
We've been talking about the special treatment that Boeing's been getting from China. They're one of the few companies that China buys a ton of stuff from, and as a means of appeasing US politicians, China is happy to throw some extra cash in Boeing's direction, over their arch-rival Airbus. The Chinese President Hu Jintao has had an eventful trip. Yesterday, he got -- wait for it -- heckled. Apparently that's not an everyday occurrence for him, since he really seemed thrown by it. Boeing's Randy Baseler has an account of the rollicking good time Hu Jintao had at Boeing's Everett, Washington factory. He appears to have been given the full rock star treatment, complete with jumbotron. Why can't all diplomacy be this way?
Japan stocks edge higher, dollar up (AP)
There's that inverse correlation again between the Yen and the Nikkei. Interesting how consistent that seems to be.
Can Starbucks Blend into France? (BusinessWeek)
Have you ever heard some scummy kid griping about Starbucks and how they allegedly (like Wal-Mart) put local coffee shops out of business? First, you should point out to them that Starbucks drinks aren't exactly cheap (they should know), and so if they are putting smaller companies out of business, they're not squeezing them out on price. Secondly, Starbucks practically invented the modern coffee shop, at least in the US. Most of the small, local, hipper joints only came into existence post-Starbucks, once people warmed to the idea of going to a shop for just coffee. There are a few counter examples, but by and large this is true. That being said, Starbucks didn't invent cafe culture in France, where it's rather established (you may have heard). So they face a considerably taller challenge over there. Still, we're all for corporate hegemony, so we wish them the best. More: Apparently KFC has been a huge hit in China. Go team.