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Opening Bell: 12.15.06

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Apple Delays Filing Its Annual Report (AP)
After the first Gulf War, we remember seeing those bumper stickers that said, "Saddam Hussein still has his job, do you?". Someone needs to print one up that says "Steve Jobs still has his job, do you?". After all the man appears to have been involved in backdating to the same degree that other CEOs, many of whom got canned. The company is still dealing with the issue. It says it will delay its annual report filing, due to ongoing investigations into stock options. Also Dell, which has an investigation of its own, said it would delay the filing of its next quarterly report.
Talks With China End With Few Signs of Progress on Currency Issue (NYT)
The US says that Chinese currency manipulation unfairly gives an advantage to its exporters. Ok, but then it must also be a subsidy to American importers. Why is our government taking sides in this fight? And why do we think that if we just send more trade reps over every few months, and issue more stern warnings, the problem will be solved. Once again, it looks like little "progress" has been made, but the two countries have promised to explore the further issue and set up more working groups. While there, Ben Bernanke urged the Chinese government to fly a helicopter over the rural parts and drop Yuan to the poor.
Report Calls for Overhaul Of U.S. Education System (WSJ)
One of the things that Alan Greenspan said, while he still mattered, was that the best economic decision the US could make would be to improve the education system, and ensure the future workers were armed with top skills, particularly in the math and sciences. Unfortunately, what Greenspan seemed to forget is that the more we seem to do to improve our supposedly awful education system, the worse things generally seem to get. Better to just not think about the problem, and hope it goes away.
Things to Be Nervous About in 2007 (Infectious Greed)
It's that time of year again: list time. It's when everyone makes lists like, Top 10 Political bloopers for 2006, or Top 20 Celebrity Fashion Disasters, or 5 Things To Be Thankful For During the Holidays. Paul Kedrosky passes along the World Bank's list of things to be worried about in '07. They are: oil shocks, unwinding of global imbalances, housing market, economic overheating, avian flu, marine fish and climate change. As Kedrosky notes, they've all been talked about a lot, so one might say the worry is all "priced in". As usual it's the black swans that get ya.

Carmakers win trade battle (Detroit News)
Here's a touching story for the holidays. In a rare display of solidarity, automakers from all over the world, including GM, Toyota and Honda worked together to eliminate a tariff on imported specialty steel, used in auto production. Now that these foreign automakers all do a lot of production here, they'll fight right along side our companies in the US makers to eliminate trade barriers, and subsidies that help other industries. Now here's a question: which way do you think Lou Dobbs would have voted? Lift the subsidies and help the automakers, or keep them in place and help the steelmakers (cue Jeopardy theme song)?
Taco Bell sales hurt by E. coli outbreak (Chicago Tribune)
No surprise here. The lingering E. coli situation as Taco Bell is definitely having an impact on its sales. And there's no telling how long the damage will last. It could be awhile. Sales are probably down around 20% across the board, and 90% in the affected region, though that number is skewed by the closing of several stores.
Vote Due on NYC Transit Union Chief (NYT)
Anyone who had to walk to Wall St. during last year's mid-winter subway strike might be interested to know that the man who spearheaded the strike may lose his job. The Transit Workers Union will wrap up voting today on whether Roger Toussaint will stay on, or be replaced by one of a slate of challengers.
488 mobile homes for sale: $1 million each (CNNMoney)
It's not just Wall St. where large sums of cash will be rolling soon. In Florida, trailer park residents are set to announce a sale of a cooperatively owned parcel of land to developers that happens to be one of the last undeveloped plots of land on the Florida coastline. Each family is expected to take in about $1,000,000 after the deal.