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Opening Bell: 10.11.06

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At Alcoa, Lower Metals Prices Curtail Increase in Earnings (WSJ)
We're on the cusp of earnings season, so it makes sense to kick things off with the company who's ticker is AA. First, the good news. Earnings surged 86% helped by a global commodities boom, which lead to both higher volumes and higher prices. And now the bad news. Despite the higher prices, prices already showed signs of softening (that's the fist derivative in action). Weakness coming from auto and housing also hurt the company. While the company is still the biggest aluminum maker in the world, it may have to relinquish that title, as Russia's Rusal has some major dealmaking in the works. But don't let one report dash your day, just keep repeating the phrase "sector specific" over and over again.
Shakers: Fiorina ready to run 'the right company' (IHT)
After some time in the corner to think about her mistakes, Carly Fiorina says she's back and ready to run a company again. Well, not just any company, but 'the right company'. Fiorina also said, in an interview, that she'd consider public service; she'd once been on a short list of people to run the World Bank. But does the Carly name actually hold that much appeal. She's always been something of a superstar, but more one of those newfangled superstars that doesn't have any fans. Our advice? How about a daytime TV talk show, Carly?
Iran's Ahmadinejad blames media for inflation (AFP)
We were beginning to think that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad only dealt with international issues, like his hatred of President Bush or his desire to roil markets. If only for the benefit of the Iranian people, it's good to see he has domestic interests as well. His latest cause is inflation, and he's blaming the media for the problem. He says the media's unrelenting focus on rising prices is leading to more rising prices, and that his government is far from the first to see this happen. Speaking directly on poultry prices, he said a bird cull in February to fight bird flu was to blame. Ahem.
Dow Ends Up 9 in Its Fourth Record Close (AP)
The annoying thing about being in record territory is that every up day, no matter how small, constitutes another record. Dow up 9? Break out the champagne baby. Granted, it's better to be at these altitudes than not -- and may all markets have these complaints. But perhaps we could just hold off on the day-to-day record watch; maybe just make not of it every 100 points. And if we're irritated just reading articles, think about how annoying it must be for officials from the Guinness Book of World Records. Every day after the market closes they need to send someone out to verify.

Equity Firms Raise Bid for Harrah’s (NYT)
Two private equity firms working in concert have agreed to raise their bid for Harrah's after their first bid was deemed to be too low by the board. The firms are cooperating and colluding in a joint effort to take the casino private. The previous offer had been $15.05 billion in cash, but it's now been upped to $15.5, which is worth over $83/share. Some analysts expect that bidding could go beyond $85/share, though it's unclear that the buyout firms are willing to go that far.
Goobe, Who’s Next? Level 3 (GigaOM)
Google's seemingly improbably purchase of YouTube has given everyone carte blanche to speculate on more deals. Obviously, we're going to be hearing a lot of Facebook/Yahoo rumors for awhile, but that's been talked about for so long, it's a total yawner. Here's an exotic one that there's been mumbling about -- Google buying Level 3. Uh, as if. The idea is that Google might want a bunch more fiber or something, but no way they're gonna pay such a hefty price tag for the company -- it's got an EV of over $12 billion.
Economists Forecast Slower U.S. Growth, Rate Cut (Bloomberg)
A new Bloomberg survey anticipates slower growth and a rate cut next June. You'd think this would be bad news, but somehow we expect everyone to pay attention to the second half of the sentence, the rate cut half. Meanwhile, over on the continent, the EU is anticipating no growth for 12 member states in the first quarter. So when you put the two stories together, you're not seeing a whole lot of optimism, which when you see the ongoing slump in oil prices and housing starts to all come together.
YouTube Deal is Doomed Just Because It Is (CJR Daily)
You know, sometimes we sort of like to see what the kids up at the Columbia Journalism Review like to say about business news. We suspect that deep down they're all anti-capitalists (c'mon, it's the CJR), but perhaps that mind-set is what it takes to cut through the nonsense from time to time. This time, they take on the piece in yesterday's Times on the YouTube deal, which the paper compared to the bubble. And as the CJR points out, this piece offered nothing in terms of substance about the deal, except to say it was expensive, and that there were a lot of deals that took place in the 90s that were also expensive and went down in a similar manner. And though we probably harp on Mark Cuban too much in these pages, it should be noted how much more his site,, went to Yahoo for back in 1999. Also, did anyone else notice that the Times editorial board weighed in on the deal? What the hell is up with that?
AT&T deal with BellSouth to get green light (Reuters)
Despite some concerns and objections, sources are indicating all-systems ago on the AT&T-BellSouth deal, saying the DOJ could give it the go ahead as early as Wednesday. No conditions or strings are likely to be attached. As for the FCC, it's likely to give the go ahead as well, but because one person in the 5 member panel previously worked for AT&T, only 4 will be voting, which does raise the possibility of a tie, and thus some sort of compromise.