Opening Bell: 5.5.06

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Productivity Increases in First Quarter (NYT)
To hear productivity discussed sometimes, you'd think it was the enemy of job creation -- because workers are so productive, the thinking goes, companies don't need to hire very many of them. Plainly this makes no sense. If a company knows that they can get more work out of an employee, aren't they more likely to hire them? Still, as long as this myth persists, we recommend telling your next interviewer that you get distracted a lot, and usually get about 3 hours of work done per day. You should get the job right on the spot.
Berkshire Buzz: Buffett's Buying (WSJ)
The Wall St. Journal gives voice to what the rest of you are turning over in your sleep about; who will Berkshire buy? Will they announce an acquisition at their annual meet? Do they ever announce acquisitions at their annual meeting? Will it be Harley-Davidson, with Warren giving every shareholder a new motorbike to drive away on? Will it be Mattel? Will it be Yahoo, to help bolster Berkshire's flagging search engine business? Only time will tell, though we don't get what the big excitement is about a Berkshire buyout. It's only fun when they buy a partial stake, and everyone can feel like a genius for rushing into the stock 3 months after Warren has.
Massive Buy Feeds Microsoft's Ad Revenue Plans (CIO)
Microsoft confirmed what had been rumored last week, that they're buying the Massive, a company that deals in in-game advertising. There's been a lot of interest in this space, as not only is there a lot of real estate, but in many situations, the presence of advertising can make a game much more real looking -- like in a car racing game. Guess the point here, is that if they can't beat Google in real-world advertising, they'll take the fight to the virtual world.
New View of Antitrust Law: See No Evil, Hear No Evil (NYT)
The Times takes the current administration to task for its lax stance on anti-trust law. The DOJs decision to allow the Whirlpool/Maytag hook-up allegedly "demoralized" the career bureaucrats in the anti-trust division. Let's clear something up: What kind of person gets demoralized when a merger goes through? A bureaucrat with nothing to do but cause trouble. It's gotta be pretty hard living on public-sector paychecks, have nothing to do, and have no hope of upward advancement. It makes sense that you'd live your life hoping to stir up trouble.


Lay-Skilling, Week Fourteen (Houston's Clear Thinkers)
It's Friday, so you know the drill; head on over and check the weekly wrap up of the criminal trial of the millenium. Fortunately for all of us, we may be coming to the final chapters of this case, so we may be getting to the good stuff -- the post-trial, pre-verdict 24hr CourtTV punditing. Can't wait.
CBS Launches Web-TV Channel With New Shows (WSJ)
CBS, which received critical acclaim for their online broadcast of the NCAA tournament (and we don't mean critical acclaim in the low sales sense), is now launching a new online channel called Innertube. It will have some original content, as well as reruns. The key is that the company will probably not get this right for several tries -- but at least they're trying, and you can expect that they'll get it better with each successive iteration. The media gloms that do well online won't do well instantly, but will be the ones that relentlessly keep trying to improve their product offerings.
Can Embarq Take Off? (Forbes)
Will anyone invest in Embarq, the plain-old phone company being spun off by Sprint-Nextel. On the one hand, it's in an old business that will lose customers every quarter; but on the other hand, they do end their name with a "U"-less Q, which means they can't be too old school. Besides, there are those contrarians who show up in Barrons all the time, talking about how the pager companies remain cash cows, perhaps they'd see this one the same way. Also -- wait for it -- the company plans on selling Embarq-branded wireless service to its customers, leasing the capacity from its former parent company. The best part of the Embarq spinoff is that now Sprint-Nextel is a wireless pureplay, meaning investors have at least one company to analyze, unfettered with some pokey old stuff.
A car that could save the planet—fast (Business2.0)
This story seems like utter gossamer, but maybe it's interesting. Lots of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley are getting into the car clean car game, focusing on battery technology. There's so much talk about new energy technology and clean cars that it seems pretty silly to even talk about it, but at least there are a lot of smart people working on the problem -- which is a good thing.
China’s housing market worries experts, government (Asia Finance Blog)
For those of you in the "paranoid of China" camp, there's more and more to take heart in. Last week, stories emerged that some citizens are really into maxing out there debt and spending their paychecks on flat-screen TVs. Now comes word that residents are taking out huge mortgages for houses they can't afford, and can expect a lifetime of debt. Of course, we're not sure what kind of economic model is more stable when more people are taking out risky debt, but maybe it'll make you feel a little better about the behavior of Americans.
Leaders Back Bolivia Gas Nationalization (AP)
The capitalist's greatest fear has to be a country that creates a working socialism. Imagine if Bolivia's standard of living started shooting up, and their citizens soon became among the wealthiest in Latin America. It would be utter disaster for every oil, gas, and mining company. This is the real reason why the nationalization of industry is always so vocally opposed. Sure there's the money aspect, and maybe some object on ideological grounds (though it's doubtful that they really care about that). But when it comes down to it, it's just too much of a risk, even if the chances of success are very remote. That being said, we're not worried, and fully expect Bolivia to come upon some rough times.

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