Opening Bell 11.24.06

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Sponsored by Bloomberg.com
Black Friday shopping set for early start (Reuters)
It's the day we've all been waiting for, the day that everyone decides to jam the malls, despite the fact that they're never more crowded than they are today. Here's our question, which we've never had a forum to ask before this year: do you make shopping decisions based on which companies you own stock in? This is the opposite of the old maxim about investing in what you know. So if you you own stock in Home Depot, would you refuse to buy a power drill at Lowe's? If you own the Gap, will you not check out the new UniQlo? In our experience, investors do tend to let their investments influence their purchasing decisions, and in the back of their minds, they might think that they're "doing their part" to help the team. Meanwhile, it's like the equivalent of election day today. By noon, we should get early exit polling to indicate what kind of season it will be.
Italy pursues triple plan to rescue Alitalia (Financial Times)
Europe, surprisingly enough, has a fairly laissez-faire civil aviation sector, as evidenced by its myriad, fly-by-night, discount airlines. Anyone ever heard of JetGreen? True story: it went out of business after one day, leaving many of its initial travelers stranded at their destination, with no way to get home. Yet the continent also hangs on to its old state-owned dinosaurs. It seems, perhaps, that EU integration has made countries more nationalistic, and eager to hold on to their old crown jewels. Alitalia was never a crown jewel. It's been a disaster for years, always losing money, and always getting bailed out. So it looks like Italy might finally be waiving the white flag, as it explores possibilities including a merger with KLM, hooking up with an Asian carrier, or just merging into the rest of the domestic aviation market. Either way, this one's been a long time coming.
Wal-Mart Will Offer Retail Banking in Mexico, an Underserved Market (NYT)
Regulators have stymied Wal-Mart's attempts to set up a bank in the US, so it looks like it's going to have to go somewhere where they get capitalism. In Mexico, the company's been given the green light to do banking from its branches, and will launch a bank called Banco Wal-Mart de México Adelante. It could do well. The retail banking industry is still a long way from maturity there, so it might be able to gather a fair slice of the pie. The Times actually admits that Wal-Mart might be the "little guy" in Mexican banking, since it's going up against Citigroup and HSBC there. Wait, isn't that who it would be competing with here?
CNBC.com’s New Push; MSN Deal Going Away (Paidcontent)
We've never understood what in the lord's name CNBC was doing having its website get lost inside the MSN.com ghetto. Really, that seems about as dumb as the splitting up Wired magazine from Wired.com. Well, it's finally coming back to the promise land. About time. On December 4th, it'll have a website all to its very own, CNBC.com, which makes a hell of a lot more sense than wherever they were before. Good thing they didn't screw it up by going all .tv on us.
Stores as Art (Ideas)
And speaking of shopping, David D. Friedman (yes, you'd be forgiven if you thought there seemed to be a lot of David Friedmans -- there are -- this one is Milton's son), notes that some retail shops are best understood as art. We agree. We've been to trendy art galleries all around the city, and they rarely sock you in the gut at the same level than amazing supermarket can, or a great electronics retailer. It's amazing how bland and sexless art can feel, compared to commercial products, or even sports, from time to time.

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