Opening Bell: 5.3.06

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Gartner: More Windows Vista delays (The Register)
Those "Industry Analysts" at Gartner are predicting more delays for Microsoft's forthcoming Vista operating system. Granted, Microsoft has a pretty bad track record when it comes to pushing releases, so right off the bat Gartner has a pretty good chance of being right. And there's a lot of grey area about what it means for an operating system to be released. Are we talking about wide availability? Wide corporate installation? Or just the ability of an individual to purchase a copy of Vista? Most importantly, this stuff looks like a publicity stunt from Gartner. What exactly do companies find worth paying for when they produce a report like this? What brilliant insights are they providing their clients that aren't available in the title of the report? Guess we gotta pay to find out. Of course, if it's true, it weakens all those optimistic forecasts about an upcoming strong product release cycle. Then again, the market already seemed to realize this last week.
Reading Bernanke's Lips (Econbrowser)
Why is it so easy to misinterpret Ben Bernanke's comments? Because he speaks so quixotically? No, because he's the Fed chief, the successor to Greenspan, and thus we expect him to be confusing. The problem is that he says what he means, but people ignore that and immediately start reading between the lines, and then pretend to act shocked when it turns out he said what he meant.
More Than Ethanol Driving ADM (BusinessWeek)
As economist Lynne Kiesling put it, "ADM, Rent Seekers To The World." Ok, so technically the company doesn't make all of its money from ethanol subsidies. But that doesn't mean their business is any less legitimate, since surely they benefit from a host of other subsidies and breaks found in The Farm Bill, you know, that bill that ensures we keep our family farms hanging around. You know, those family farms that make up the heartbeat of America. Somehow, ADM got included on this list, and if there's one farm we'd like to see go under, it might be this one. The company is known to fly politicians around on their private jets, where they're served grain-based products on gold-plated plates. No lie. If the company thinks that ethanol is so good for US consumers, perhaps they'll advocate the end of a $0.54/gallon tariff on imported ethanol from Brazil -- perhaps.
State sues feds, saying SUV mileage standards should be raised (SF Chronicle)
And while we're at it, here are a few more pieces of legislation we think might be in order. Everyone born in the US must grow to 6'0". Every computer needs a 4.0 GHz processor. It can only rain on weekends. And Chinese restaurants can't skimp on the MSG. Surely you can do it, Mr. President; just sign in into law. Actually, about that last one, seriously, maybe there is something you can do about that.


Buffett May Find Harley-Davidson, Mattel Fit Purchase Criteria (Bloomberg)
As this weekend's Buffetstock draws near, Bloomberg is playing the WWWB? (Who Will Warren Buy?) guessing game. They toss out the names of Harley-Davidson and Mattel out their, claiming that both fit the criteria laid out by the Oracle From Omaha. Criteria include market valuations of between $5 billion and $20 billion, strong balance sheets, enduring brands, good return on equity, managers who can stay with the company, et. al. The article throws out several other names like J&J, Altria, and VF Corp, all stuff with a stable of well-known brands. The article quotes Dealbreaker favorite Aswath Damodaran saying, "(Berkshire) Berkshire can't buy a company unnoticed...A brand name is one of those competitive advantages you can hang onto for a long time.'"
Exxon CEO: Use less of our stuff (CNNMoney)
A lot of pundits have called for 'boycotts' of the energy companies in protest of high gas prices. Of course, what the O'Reillys of the world call boycotts is what other people conservation, which would in fact lead to a reduction in prices. Now the new CEO of Exxon is saying the exact same thing that O'Reilly is, that if people want to save money, they should buy less gas. Not only would they save less from lower volume, but the price would come down too.
Turning Around In A Storm (Forbes)
Let's hope GM & Ford aren't leading economic indicators; unfortunately, they're not lagging indicators. The economy is doing great, interest rates have been low, consumers are spending out the wazoo -- as Jonathan Fahey points out, it should be great times for the two automakers. In some ways, they are the proverbial canaries. Their pension systems aren't a whole lot different than our federal systems; their soaring healthcare costs almost certainly foreshadow the money we'll spend on retirees' prescription drugs over the coming years. That being said, if the companies haven't been able to profit while times are good, there'll be a lot to worry about of the much-feared weakness in the economy comes to pass. Hmm, notice nobody uses the term 'soft landing' much anymore?
Louis Rukeyser, Television Host, Dies at 73 (NYT)
This might be out of place, but a legend in television financial journalism has died. All of the young'uns who scream at the camera on CNBC, Fox and CNN would be wise to pop in a few old tapes of Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeser and learn how it's done.
The Passion of Eliot Spitzer (OpinionJournal)
For all of you out there who quake at the name Spitzer and thus donate to his campaign just out of fear that if you don't he'll investigate your pension, Kimberley Strassel's got some red meat for you: New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer appeared on Comedy Central late last year, admitting to host Stephen Colbert that as a kid he was the "enforcer" on the soccer team, the guy who "took people out." "You play hard, you play rough, and hopefully you don't get caught," he said. The AG was trying for a laugh, but it may have been one of the more revealing insights into his career. Mr. Spitzer has certainly played hard and rough in his time as New York's top law enforcer, and for the most part he hasn't got caught. More telling is his reaction when he is called out, as is happening more often now that the business community has started to challenge his authority. Mr. Spitzer, now running for the governor's mansion, has responded to a growing list of accusations of abuse by denying, dissembling and developing convenient cases of amnesia.

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