Opening Bell: 11.17.06

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At Sears, Investing -- Not Retail -- Drives Profit (WSJ)
How do you know when a retailer is run by a big finance guy, as opposed to a typical retail chief. It's when the sales decline but net income triples because the company made a mint on exotic derivatives. This is the brilliance of Eddie Lampert. But apparently Sears investors aren't too impressed by the company's trading gains; they were looking for old fashioned stuff, like, um, sales. And since sales were down, the stock was down. We can only imagine Eddie Lampert screaming right now about how the public just doesn't get it. A few more quarters of the public not getting it, and he'll want to take it private.
Oil Price Plunge Puts Pressure On OPEC (Dow Jones)
Nobody believes that OPEC could really get its act together, and consequently oil has busted below the bottom end of its range. It had, you see, been range bound. But it's now down to be $56 barrels, despite the protestations from OPEC that inventories are plenty big and need to be reduced now. Trader think inventories are plenty big too.
Edwards Acknowledges Wal-Mart Gaffe (AP)
Unlike the rest of Dealbreaker, which wouldn't be caught dead in a Wal-Mart, the Opening Bell would drive 20 miles to save a dollar on some Mach 3 razors at one, if only the Opening Bell had a car. So you'll have to forgive us for picking up on any morsel of Wal-Mart news, regardless of its import. It's just that no other company embodies the swirl of economics, politics, and culture the way the behemoth from Bentonville. Really, it's a damn lightning rod. The latest to be sucked into its vortex is Presidential aspirant John Edwards, who mistakenly let a volunteer look for a PS3 at Wal-Mart. The volunteer feels absolutely terrible. Apparently in Edwards' coming Presidential run, he's not going to be playing the common man card, since the common man doesn't get embarrassed when shopping at Wal-Mart.
Ross Levinsohn Leaves Fox Interactive (GigaOM)
It's shakeup time at internet media. Just after Jon Miller was shown the door at AOL, it looks like Ross Levinsohn, the head of Fox Interactive is jumping ship, off to greener pastures. Though he probably wasn't kicked out. By all accounts the man's been the architect to Fox's successful internet strategy, with MySpace as the crown jewel. He's really the Karl Rove to Murdoch's George W. Bush. Oh, and we won't even mention that AOL exec Jason Calacanis, brought in by its purchase of Weblogs Inc. is probably gone as well, though again, by his own volition.


Google Traffic to Trump Yahoo's by Late 2007 (Infectious Greed)
Frankly, we're getting a little bit tired of people pointing out that Yahoo is still the largest internet company around, when we all know it's #2 to Google. Yes, technically it gets more page views, but that's only because the site is so complicated and messy that it requires more clicks. And when you subtract out the traffic from stay-at-home traders constantly refreshing quotes on Yahoo Finance, that's gotta add up. So it's good to see an estimate that Google will surpass The 'Hoo sometime next year, and people can stop with the whole biggest in the world thing.
M.F. (Ideas)
Today, everybody wants to be a friend of the deceased Milton Friedman. Hell, we bet that even Paul Krugman will try to suggest that the man was an intellectual inspiration, as hard as that would be to believe. One person who legitimately has connection to Uncle Milton was his son David D Friedman, who is also an economist, and has a blog. The above link is a poem he put up in honor of the his father.
Ladbrokes tumbles as October punters win (Times Online)
Wow, it's really a sad time to be an online gambling house. All of them are getting slammed by the US 'crackdown', even though it's pretty easy to get around. Now sportsbookmaker Ladbrokes is losing because, get this, bettors bet too well in October. That's right; they just couldn't set the right odds on events and "lucky" soccer fans did well. They sound just like any trading house when they say lines like this to nervous investors: "While a number of football and racing results went against us in October, early trading has been in line with expectations." Classic.

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