Opening Bell: 11.30.06

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Greenberg denies push to buy Times Co. stock (Boston Globe)
Who's word do you trust, Hank Greenberg's or Roddy Boyd? In our experience, the biz desk at the NY Post gets things right with uncanny accuracy when it comes to Wall St rumors, and we'll take them against any other paper in town. Yet Greenberg denies the report that he's snapping up shares of the Old Gray Lady. The initial report caused the stock to surge, which should be pretty alarming for the Sulzbergers, even if the rumors aren't true. It shows that investors have a yen to see some change there. We hope Greenberg is just being coy, since we'd love to see a real brawl break out.
Average house price rises by £15,000 (Guardian)
Yesterday there were a bunch of reports out with people arguing that the worst is over in the housing market. There didn't seem to be much to back this up, so it was probably just well-placed NAR propaganda. Since the beginning of the downturn, there have been several people who thought the situation should be compared to the UK, which went through as similar cycle, but was a few years ahead of us. They pointed out the lack of carnage induced by the fall. So if your one of those, who thinks that our cousins across the Atlantic act as a guidepost to the future, take heart that prices are rising there again, in spite of higher interest rates. So get out there and buy.
Buyout takers won't take off (Detroit Free Press)
Almost 50% of Ford's factory workers are said to have accepted buyout offers from the company, leaving many to wonder what the glut of non-workers will mean for the state of Michigan, whose economic health is already tenuous. Unfortunately, most of them probably aren't qualified to work at Google, which recently opened up offices in Ann Arbor. With any luck (for economists), the move might be a good lab to explore the positive impact of a massive freeing up of deadweight capital. In interviews, many of them said that they'll stick around, and use their buyout money to start small businesses. In a state dominated by these old industries, a little boom in entrepreneurship seems like just what the doctor ordered. Maybe the massive reorganization will be the the best thing that ever happened to the state.
Panel to Urge Rewriting S.E.C. Rules to Aid Companies (Dealbook)
President Bush's opportunity for salvaging a positive mention in the history books is rapidly closing. his tenure will absolutely be defined by the war in Iraq, where he would need a miracle to pull out any semblance of a victory in the next two years. So he should probably focus on some policy areas that are salvageable. A panel is making the claim, yet again, that regulations have badly damaged the competitiveness of US businesses and financial markets, and that big changes are warranted. It also recommended that the SEC perform cost-benefit analysis on every proposal it makes. Let's take a step back here. Why the hell does this even need to be a recommendation? Really. Why would any government bureau pass a regulation, ever, without doing a cost-benefit analysis? That being said, if it's not going on, it certainly seems like a good idea. In our view, Bush could do a lot worse than undoing some of the Sarbanes-Oxley damage that occurred early on in his administration.


German November Joblessness Fell as Confidence Grew (Bloomberg)
We don't think it's a coincidence that at the moment that Donald Rumsfeld finds himself out of a job, the laborers in 'Old Europe' are going back to work in record numbers. The universe was a way of balancing things out over time. In Germany, which really put the Old in Old Europe, consumer confidence is up while unemployment is plummeting. Plummeting is speaking relatively, of course, as the joblessness rate still stands at over 10%.
BHP Says Ravensthorpe Nickel Costs Rise 64 Percent (Bloomberg)
The commodities story isn't going away. They're still expensive, and expensive to mine (which is not a coincidence). Mining giant BHP Billiton said its newest mining site, Ravensthorpe, is going much slower than expected, as the company has had a hard time acquiring the necessary equipment, while labor productivity has been poor. This comes at a time when nickel is once again training at all-time highs, so the delay does little to ease the tension.
A College Education Without Job Prospects (NYT)
How many stories such as this one before people put to rest the old stuff about India and China churning out millions more engineers than we do each year. Actually, "churning out" is probably a good way to put it, because by most accounts, the majority of these millions remain poorly trained and unable to snatch away good Western jobs. This isn't a good thing, despite the barely audible "phew" in the background of the Times article. It'd be great to have another 10 million brilliant engineers in the world's economy each year. But all of the talk about "falling behind" seems a little premature.
Agricore CEO unimpressed by SaskPool's takeover bid (Globe & Mail)
We spent our Thanksgiving up in the Great White North (sacrilege, we know), and we were struck by how omnipresent the industries we talk about, energy, mining, and agriculture are throughout life and the media. Their economy seems much more focused on these things than ours is. Fortunately for them, these are hot areas these days, as evidenced by the rise of the Canadian Dollar, which meant that our recent jaunt wasn't as cheap as past visits. The latest news from them is that Agricore is not interested in the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool Inc.'s buyout offer for the company, calling the deal inadequate. This sounds like posturing though, and it sounds like the company will take a deal if something higher is offered, either from Agricore or another party.
Gas Find Shows Shale's Promise (WSJ)
The amusing book put out by the satirical newspaper The Onion titled "our dumb century" has a fake front-page from a newspaper on every page, representing each year. Every 5 years or so, there's a headline that says "Jews & Arabs Forge New Era Of Piece". If the Onion had one mock front page of the business section, every few years, there would have to be a headline "Shale Era Has Finally Arrived".

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