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Opening Bell: 11.21.06

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In Web World, Rich Now Envy the Superrich (NYT)
Class warfare is a really hot subject these days, and of course we apologize for anything we do to fan its flames. In Silicon Valley, those who sold their startups for million resent those who sold 'em for billions. What's even worse, are the founders of startups during the last bubble, who see new startups replicating their ideas, and actually making money off of them. Basically, unless you're the plucky YouTube kids, you're probably envious of someone -- probably the YouTube guys. And of course we have the same dynamic here on the right coast. But it's not tech entrepreneurs, it's bankers, lawyers and doctors, each occupying a distinct spot on the wealth hierarchy. Then there's academia, where the scatter plot of professor salaries is growing ever broader. And today, the Journal says that Democrats may finally be in position to do something about the wealth gap. Perhaps they could start by ensuring that all of the wealthy are at least relatively equal.
Freeport deal feeds sweeping merger talk (Globe & Mail)
Once, back in 1999, we were driving through Ontario, and on the radio came an ad for the Toronto Stock Exchange. They were having a family fun day, and everyone was invited to come learn about the exchange, and get free prizes for the kids. It was painfully clear that the exchange was trying to drum up some popular enthusiasm a la the American markets at the time. Now it's all Canada all the time. Yesterday's announcement that Phelps-Dodge would be bought out didn't have a big impact on American stocks, but the mining-heavy Canadian market bounced around, as institutional investors once again got copper fever. The deal signals that there may be more buyouts, and than there's confidence in the price of copper going forward.
Paulson calls for some Sarbanes-Oxley changes (MarketWatch)
Hank, we get it. You don't like Sarbanes-Oxley. We know this by now. Really, you could probably go back and find, like, ten Dealbreaker items on Hank Paulson saying something bad about Sarbanes-Oxley. Make no mistake, he's fighting the good fight. And he's doing a lot more than John Snow or Paul O'Neill ever did, but come on. Over and over and over again, it's always the same thing. Either do something about it, or move on. And to all of the news organizations covering his word as if it was news, please find a new angle.
A Whiff of Notoriety Is All It Took to Sell An Alcohol Vaporizer (WSJ)
A little negative publicity and some threats to ban a product never hurt much. Just ask the vendor of the AWOL, a device that turns alcohol into vapor that can rapidly be inhaled, for an instant, monster hit. Since a segment about it ran on TV, several states have banned the product -- for no good reason, we're sure. Meanwhile, sales have surged. And even if they're banned in all 50 states, there's gotta be a way around it. We're thinking they should relocate to the Cayman Islands. All these lobbyists that companies hire to carve out exemptions for their products are going out about things the wrong way.

Citgo Brings Discounted Heating Oil to Region (Washington Post)
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is looking to pull the same stunt he pulled last year, offering free heating oil to the poor in the US. It worked really well last time; you could just see the outpouring of support he got when he came to visit. No doubt his popularity in the polls will rise even further this year. Of course he insists that it's not a stunt, that he really cares about the poor in the US. Weird though, it seems like he could do a lot more to help the poor in other countries, like, you know, Venezuela or something.
Delta to recall 700 maintenance workers (Today in the Sky)
About those layoffs, we changed our mind, hope you haven't found a new job yet, cause we really want you back. It's not just batteries that companies recall, or car seats, or bagged spinach. Delta, which says its bankruptcy reorganization is going really well, wants 700 of its maintenance workers back on the job. No hard feelings.
VegaPlus Commodities Hedge Fund Quit Gas, Avoided Amaranth Fate (Bloomberg)
We've noted before that a lot of companies claim to have had some impressive foresight because they avoided an Amaranth-style meltdown by getting out of the natural gas market. Of course, for every buyer, there's also a seller, so there were a lot of people moving in and out of the stuff, and it seems likely that in a lot of cases it was just a matter of luck, which turned out to be, well, really lucky. So we can't put much stock in a hedge fund that got out of natural gas to get into metals claiming that it saw bad things on the horizon and that things were just too frothy.
Korean Air Orders 25 Boeing Planes, Largest Purchase (Bloomberg)
Why do we even bother mentioning these things? No idea. By now everyone knows that Boeing is totally running up the scoreboard against Airbus. It's not even really fair. Arguably it's poor sportsmanship. Perhaps they should outsource some of their work to Airbus, just to create some healthy opposition, though we can't imagine Boeing's customers would be too happy about that. The latest is Korean Air, which put in a $5.5 billion order in with Boeing for 25 planes, passing over Airbus. Boeing should adopt a new motto: Boeing, doing our part to eliminate the trade deficit.
Comcast Close to Disney Deal, Report Says (Dealbook)
What!? Is the merger finally going through? Nope, they're just coming to an agreement about airing some Disney shows, like Lost, over Comcast's on-demand service. Boring.