Opening Bell: 6.2.06

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NYSE, Euronext Set Plan to Form A Markets Giant
Perhaps you shouldn't count your chickens yet, but it would appear that after months of rumors, we're about to get a really big merger between stock markets. The NYSE and Euronext have agreed on terms, and already US regulators have given a likely green light to the plan. For the big American institutions, "Get Europe" seems to be the order of the times. Sarbanes-Oxley has cast a pall on the lucrative IPO market, causing many American startups to list overseas. One institution that owns shares in both companies claimed that both are getting a great value, which is hard to imagine, certainly they can't just create money be smashing their businesses together. It's also not clear what will happen in terms of listings? Will there be more dual listings? Or will merger simply happen on the back end with little difference seen by the end investor.
May Turned Out to Be Strong for Most Retailers (NYT)
Finally, finally, gas prices took a toll on retail spending. Oh, just kidding. Outside of Wal-Mart the retail sector grew at a healthy clip in the month of May, with strong sales at places like Target and JC Penney. We've been waiting for the great pump-induced spending slowdown for some time, and it appeared to be finally be upon us as Wal-Mart announced sluggish same-store sales growth. But, either Wal-Mart is a unique situation, or lower-income earners are really the only ones feeling the effect of higher gas prices. Okay, but next month it's definitely going to cause a pinch, right?
Crocs Shoe Company Co-Founder Arrested (AP)
What is it about the shoe business that leads to so many scoundrels? The most famous of course was Steve Madden, he of disturbing company ads on the Subway. He spent several years in prison (embezzlement was it?), while his company ran ads about how much they missed the guy. Now the co-founder of the newly public (and allegedly very comfortable, though we wouldn't know cause they're ugly as all hell) Crocs shoes has been arrested for allegedly threatening to slit his brother-in-law's throat. That must've been awkward. And as Eddy Elfenbein notes, he's only being charged with a misdemeanor, which seems awfully light for what sounds like threatening murder.
N.Y. Comptroller Seeks to Jettison Milberg as Pension Fund Counsel (Law.com) (via Dealbook)
How many days has it been since the Milberg Weiss announcement with nary a word from our crime-fighting Attorney General? Just now the state comptroller has moved to ditch the company as the chief council in a lawsuit against Bayer. Alan Hevesi's also moving to prevent Milberg from ever serving in such capacity again in New York. This seems like a laudable and sensible move; states can make big bank by via class-action lawsuits, and it'd be a shame to risk that money train by having an unseemly partner. Still, when will Spitzer spring to action, and speak out for NY individuals and businesses that've been harmed by Milberg in the past.


Asian Cars Won 40% of Market Last Month (NYT)
You can say all you want about the GM turnaround, but the success of fuel-efficient Asian cars is absolutely staggering. They did 20% year-over-year sales growth in the month of May. Market share for Detroit dropped to 53%; it seems inevitable that eventually, perhaps this year, the Asian makers will eventually become dominant -- and that's not bad for the economy. In fact, if you're wondering why the higher gas prices have done more damage, it may be due to Americans upgrading to a more fuel-efficient fleet. Furthermore, it would seem that every dollar spent to the Asian companies is used wisely and efficiently, something that seems hard to say about The D.
ClickFraud is far greater than imagined (Blogmaverick)
There aren't too many lingering doubts about Google's business. They're clearly drubbing the competition and they're making a lot of cash doing it. Despite the occasional story about how the company is a black box, they're nothing like Goldman. People perform a search and sometimes they're drawn to click on one of the sponsored links on the side; ka-ching. But one nagging doubt that gets attention every couple of months is the question of click fraud. This includes illegal networks of blogs, in which the owner clicks his own ads (usually with bots that can do it thousands of times and avoid detection) or it can also be competitors clicking on each other's ads just to cost each other money. Mark Cuban who has experience in publishing and search (and Basketball and HD Movies and selling vaporware to Yahoo) thinks it's a big problem, and one that will be ugly when it's exposed. Most of Mark's evidence is basically circumstantial (there's big demand for it and it's hard to get caught), but there's little evidence suggesting that it's going on en masse, as he fears. Still it's an interesting discussion on a new kind of problem.
How Radio Can Confront Change (Hear 2.0)
Terrestrial radio (as it's come to be known in the ear of satellite) has been on the same slow deathmarch track as many other old forms of media, as they're not used to adapting to new times. But, regardless of how much you believe that new media is for real or how ubiquities it will get, as Warren Buffett correctly observed the old monopolies on attention are dead. And since monopolies are so conducive to profits, media must adapt to this new reality. Mark Ramsey, a terrestrial radio consultant has a good interview with Venture Capitalist Pip Coburn talking about new media, new technologies, and what radio needs to do to confront change. Two interesting notes; one is that he's skeptical about HD Radio, which is seen as a big savior for radio. It's sort of like satellite-light. The big radio gloms are investing heavily into it, but unless they actually make it into something appealing, users aren't likely to pay up for the necessary receivers, even if the service is free. The other thing Coburn notes is that radio must play up its advantages; if stations become unique to their community, they'll be much harder to displace by the national satellite stations.
Back in the Day (Conglomerate)
The Conglomerate blog has been having an Enron extravaganza, with lots of good posts from several law profs all about anything Enron. Here's a nice revisionist history: And remember how Congress then leaped into action, ignoring the cheap thrills of perp walks and "corporate governance reform" and instead reforming 401(k) and IRA legislation to encourage wise investment and portfolio diversification and safeguard the privatized portion of our national retirement system to avoid future multibillion-dollar losses by legions of middle-class retirees who invested their 401(k) dollars unwisely and end up seeking public assistance in their golden years? Oh wait...Never mind.

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