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Opening Bell: 10.20.06

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Two former Treasury secretaries join hedge funds (Marketwatch)
Some high-profile blowups, and constant scrutiny in the media hasn't dulled the lure of hedge funds. Just yesterday, two former Treasury secretaries announced that they'd be joining on to the funds. John Snow, also former chief at CSX, is joining Cerberus as Chairman, while Larry Summers is joining D.E. Shaw in what appears to be a more strategic role, advising the company on portfolio management, stuff like that. We're not sure how much Larry Summers will be pulling down, but it's gotta be pretty competitive with his role as president of Harvard. And now he can joke as much as he wants about women in science, and nobody will give a damn, which has to feel nice.
Google Shares Rise After Third-Quarter Results Beat Estimates (Bloomberg)
In case you missed it, last night, Google absolutely crushed in its last quarter, sending shares sharply higher after the bell. This comes after reports that the company now controls 25% of all web advertising. In fact, its growth is accelerating. Last quarter, its net earnings grew by 60% (ho hum), but this time by 92%. Yahoo and Google, talk about two companies going in opposite directions. Get ready for a bunch more upgrades, as analysts trip over themselves to say nice things about the company. Oh, and there's an extra bonus with Google. It's too young to have been involved in any backdating schemes.
Why Is Time Warner Spinning Off Cable? To Buy Cablevision (Tech Trader Daily)
There's speculation that Time Warner is spinning of its cable unit now so that it's in position to make a play for Cablevision. Meanwhile, the Dolan's have already announced their plan to take Cablevision private, so it appears that the company is definitely 'in play'. The timing of it seems difficult for Time Warner. The Dolan's are acting now, setting the wheels in motion for their purchase. Meanwhile, Time Warner just filed for its IPO. It'll take a while for that to happen; then it'll take some time after that before it can put together a deal. Certainly seems like Cablevision could be accounted for in some way or another before all that happens.
Beware: More Fed hikes may be coming (CNNMoney)
Talk about a mood killer. A few months ago, everyone was repeating the word 'stagflation' as if it was a new bad word that they had just heard for the first time. Now nobody is talking about the inflation side of it. But as we've pointed out, when you strip out declining energy costs, inflation is still alive and well. And if you stripped out energy on the way up, you really ought to do it now. Well, it really doesn't matter what you do, or what you think. What matters is what Ben Bernanke thinks about this, and with the Dow setting all time highs, and core inflation ticking back up, he might just decide that the economy can afford another squeeze.

Indicted Snipes filming in Namibia (Reuters)
Just this week, Wesley Snipes was indicted on tax fraud, a case that could seriously land him in hot water. And now he's filming a movie in Namibia. Namibia, as in the country that doesn't have an extradition treaty with The US. Yep, the Namibia where Kobi Alexander new to run to; the country which actually granted bail to a guy who was known to be on the lam from the law. Now he's living it up on a casino resort, waiting for the slow gears of justice to turn. We can only speculate whether Snipes' presence in the country is intentional or not, though we presume he didn't get the whole film transferred there just for legal purposes. Namibia is so hot these days. Pretty soon, people will start traveling there who aren't hiding from the law or having a baby... just in case.
State Court Rules Against Catholic Church on Insurance (NYT)
New York's top court ruled that the Catholic Church is not exempt from a law that requires employee health insurance programs to pay for contraception. This is the kind if issue that really makes people angry, depending on which way its ruled. Without offering our own opinion (try to guess it), we'll ask a more vague question that gets to the heart of what insurance is supposed to be. Why is contraception ever covered by insurance? Insurance is supposed to cover unexpected events; that's what insurance is, by definition. But if you make a decision to be on birth control, how can that be considered unexpected? It's sort of like calling Social Security an insurance scheme... oh, except everyone retires.
ICBC Completes Record IPO as Demand Tops $500 Billion (Bloomberg)
The much-anticipated IPO of the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China netted $19.1 billion for the company, the highest amount ever taken in an IPO. Investor's clamored for the shares, putting in orders that totaled $500 billion. The company has 18,000 branches, and its consumer base is bigger than the population of Russia. In other words, if China continues to do really well, the ICBC should do really well as well. At the same time, Chinese and Hong Kong indexes are trading near all-time highs. Word is that Goldman Sachs is going to rake in some huge fees on this deal, but it's gotta be a pretty great time to be a a banker in Hong Kong these days.... we're guessing.
Chrysler Enlists Mercedes Officials In Bid to Cut Manufacturing Costs (WSJ)
By most accounts, the Japanese have lost much of their edge in terms of car quality. American (and Deutsch-American) autos last a long time, don't break down as much as they used to, and get decent gas mileage. They even have air bags. But the Japanese automakers do have one striking advantage; across the board, their products are cheaper to produce, on the order of thousands per item. So, if a company wants to compete better, it has to tackle this problem, which is what Chrysler is now saying it plans to do. It's launching a new initiative to save an extra $1,000 per car, which if successful would be no trivial amount. However, it doesn't look like the company has any concrete ideas, just a plan to study cost savings opportunities at every level. Still, it's a start.
In Estonia, Paying Women To Have Babies Is Paying Off (WSJ)
While much of Europe is fretting about declining birth rates, Estonia is doing something about it. There the government is offering generous provisions to parents, monthly payments that are much (much) higher than the average salary. Slowly, the program seems to be working, and the birth rate is creeping up, though still below the 2.1/family that demographers say is necessary to maintain population. Does anyone still believe in the population bomb? Remember that idea, that the population of the world would grow so fast that we'd outstrip our ability to feed or house ourselves? There is a population bomb, but it's the exact opposite, that we won't have enough people. And more people are good for a modern economy; more people equals more ideas and innovation. Is it any wonder that Estonia is the birthplace of such hot young tech companies, like Skype? Just sayin'
Report: N. Korean Leader Regrets Test (AP)
The nuclear test -- if it happened -- didn't shake the Asian markets too much. There's a difference between a nuclear test, and the dropping of a nuclear bomb, which would've had a big effect. But now that the world has reacted so harshly, Kim Jong Il is apologizing, saying he wants to return to the negotiating table. Hmm, let's just say this sounds suspicious; certainly it's a lot different than when he was saying that the world's response to the test was tantamount to a declaration of war. Perhaps he's repenting so quickly because of threats to withhold his beloved cognac.