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Opening Bell: 6.7.06

No Quick Death For The Estate Tax (Forbes)
Here's some unwelcome news for the children of bankers everywhere. Abolition of the estate tax (or the death tax, depending on your leanings) looks unlikely to happen. So if you're a Williamsburg hipster, just scraping buy, hoping that your father's death will lead to a big payday so that you can finally by a loft on the Lorimer L stop, think again. The government's probably going to still be taking a hefty cut of his cash, and you may need to consider the Montrose stop instead (sorry). There does seem to be some strange political calculus going on, however. If the elimination of the tax this time around does indeed fail, it's likely to be on the table in 2009, when new tax debates are up again. But if it were to pass (unlikely, since Republicans won't get a filibuster proof majority), then it would necessarily expire in 2009, along with the rest of Bush's cuts. So who knows, maybe there's hope yet.
Brin Says Google Compromised Principles (AP)
It's being reported that Google's Sergey Brin now admits that the company compromised its principles when it went into China, and wouldn't totally rule out reversing course at some point. If true, that's quite a stand, particularly given how large of a pie the China market is likely to be. But it still invites the question of what exactly Google would be accomplishing by leaving the country. Ok, so they don't like delivering search results that don't make mention of Tiananmen Square. That's honorable, but neither can any other search engine there. This isn't relativist thinking; if Google's technology actually is the best when it comes to "organizing the world's information" they benefit the Chinese with their presence.
Magazine Makes News by Having a Name (CJR Daily)
How desperate is the New York Media for any info crumbs coming out of the Conde Nast empire? The buzz on their new finance magazine continues for no reason except that it's chosen a name: Portfolio. It's sort of a bland name, makes you wonder if there's some alluded-to double entendre going on there, like, "Check out the size of her/his, um... Portfolio". The naming of the magazine, which won't be out for another year, landed a 1500-word article in The Times. Once the article got the name out of the way, and had to fill the remaining 1499 words, it focused on areas such as the magazine's content, which is a little strange since it has no content. Still, it must've been a pretty exciting week for those working on the launch, imagine the news they get when they announce the newsstand price.
Banking On Home Depot As Long As Commerce And Banking Don’t Mix (Matrix)
Just like Wal-Mart, Home Depot wants to get into banking. Why not capture some of the profit that third party lenders are making for the purchase of construction materials. It'll be structured in such a way, that Home-Depot can still count the cash on the books, right away, we're sure. But the National Association Of Realtors, which of late has come to act as one of the most tenacious cartels is against the plan. They don't want any activity, which gives the appearance that commerce and banking is permissible. Their fear is that banks will move in on their turf, and become housing brokers as well. It would seem like a natural fit, though certainly opponents will claim all sorts of conflicts of interest, etc. So in order to prevent this the NAR has to oppose every other possible tie up between a bank and a retailer. Gotta love regulation.

Sprint Nextel leads chorus opposing AT&T-BellSouth merger (RCR News)
Here's an easy litmus test to determine whether a deal is "uncompetitive" (a rubbish term if ever there were one) and one that should be blocked. If the combined company's competitors are urging that the deal be blocked, then it ought to be given the go ahead. If on the other hand, the competitors yawn, well, er... that probably warrants a green light to. But really, it's hard to find better evidence of competition than vehement protest from the other side.
In Mexican Race, 'Wal-Mart' Voters May Hold the Key
It's a really good sign for the health of an economy and polity when groups of voters get identified in some way, other than simply their demographic (e.g. Men, 18-34). In Mexico, the new coveted bloc is called Wal-Mart voters, lower middle class, car-driving suburban residents who shop at Wal-Mart. So if you recall, in 19996, we had soccer Moms, then it was Nascar Dads, then in 2004 it was security moms, and supposedly this time around, according to the chatter, it's Starbucks Republicans. Picture it,;you get the idea.
For HP, income is less taxing (SF Chronicle)
When you're on a roll, everything goes your way. Typically an IRS audit is something that companies and investors dread -- so it must've been quite a nice surprise for the company when it was determined they had overpaid the taxman $400 million. Apparently they add line 48 to 47 on the EZ, when they should have subtracted. Good think we have those eagle eyes at the IRS catching those mistakes. The change boosted their adjusted net income for the quarter to $.69 instead of $.54.
Will Soft-Drink Stocks Go Flat? (BusinessWeek)
Ah, yes. It is about that time in the cycle, isn't it, when we start seeing articles about so-called defensive stocks. You know, stuff like food (People always gotta eat, ya know) soda (people are addicted to coke) drugs (People gotta keep taking their medicine, ya hear) and so on and son. It's almost a cliche, the way these names pop up, as if all this information weren't already known. Does anyone ever answer "You know, I've never thought of that"? The logic isn't too different than the "buy oil stocks before Labor Day" school of investing, since people are gonna have to do a lot of driving that weekend.
First quarter production is UP (Pit & Quarry Editor's Blog)
Psst... here's a little bit of economic data that may not make it onto CNBC. According to the latest study performed by the U.S. Geological Survey, first quarter production of aggregates (crushed stone, concrete, all the hard stuff) was up by 6.3% over last year. Obviously positive q1 information is already in the books elsewhere, but good to see the heavy, dirty stuff doing its part.