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Opening Bell: 1.10.07

NYSE, others buy 20 pct stake in India's NSE bourse (Reuters)
It's not just European stock exchanges that are hot commodities. A group of American buyers including Goldman Sachs, the NYSE and private equity firm General Atlantic, along with Japan's Softbank have each bought a 5% share in the cleverly titled National Stock Exchange. Due to India's controls on such thing, the 5% stakes were the maximum allowed under the law. It's not totally clear how the purchase fits in with the NYSE's overall strategy, although the $115 million it paid is a drop in the bucket compared to its its$14 billion merger with Euronext.
Thailand seeks to reassure investors (BusinessWeek)
Economically speaking, there's no doubt that the coup leaders in Thailand didn't really think things all the way through. Actually, it seems like most coup leaders in history only plan up 'til the moment they seize power, and after that, all bets are off. After imposing some shocking capital controls, the coup quickly realized that it would send the economy into a tailspin, so the rules were rescinded. Now the leaders are out promising businesses that it won't mess around too much with stuff, and that it will apply limitations on foreign investment very flexibly. So if you just apply for an exemption or something, you should be able to do business as usual. As you assignment, compare and contrast the Thai leadership with a) Hugo Chavez or b) Vladimir Putin.
Cuban Economists Envision Role For Markets in Post-Castro Era (WSJ)
The twilight of Castro's years has reminded much of the world of the great Louis Armstrong number "You Rascal You" which goes "I'll be happy when you're dead you rascal you/I'll be happy when you're dead you rascal you/Well you ate up all my cabbage/ You ate just like a savage (ain't that something)/ I'll be happy when you're dead you rascal you". That has to be how a group of economists in Cuba are feeling these days. They're taking advantage of Castro's absence to talk about things like private ownership and market-based reforms. Bet they all have a copy of Capitalism & Freedom hidden under their desks. Does this augur well for the post-Castro era? The interesting thing is not that they're talking (we assume they always talked in private), but that they're actually being listened to by Cuban authorities. Castro's spinning in his death bed.
Alcoa's Shares Advance After Profit, Shipments Gain (Bloomberg)
The commodities biz is still a good one to be in. After some recent unimpressive results, Alcoa turned in some solid results, with earnings up 60%. Growth was attributable to China, as well as aluminum cans.

US protectionists jeopardise deal to open up transatlantic flights (The Guardian)
India has its capital controls that limit foreign ownership of just about everything, as we mentioned above. Thailand has flirted with major capital controls, but isn't wed to them. The US is freer than most, but for some reason we're really sensitive about our airlines. No clue why. Rules about foreign ownership are what have prevented the launch of Virgin America, and probably countless other aviation startups, who's names we'll never know. And now US trade reps are telling their European counterparts to shut up about it and stop complaining. Really. They're saying, no progress is going to be made in this area, at least not anytime soon, so you might as well work on something else, like allowing more transatlantic flights and stuff like that. Sounds like they're basically telling it like it is.
Big Three Look Back to Past Glories and Dream of Muscle (NYT)
Every day the American automakers attack their foreign rivals on a different front. So far this week it's been all about the new eco-friendly models that will be coming out, such as electric cars and Smart Cars that look like golf carts. But, let's face it, the soul of Detroit is not some crunchy tree hugger, no matter how much Detroit would love some of that crunchy tree hugger skrilla. The soul of Motown is in powerful muscle cars, and so the makers are hoping to revive that lost art. Rival Toyota picked up a little bit on the hollowness of the whole scheme, noting that "eventually you run out of things in your closet" to drag back out. True, but the new concept Camaro on display does look pretty slick.
Home Depot Board Faces New Outcry (NYT)
Out of the frying pan and into the fire goes the phrase, right? Just as soon as Home Depot made some efforts to put the Bob Nardelli scandal behind it, the company's got a new one that had corporate government experts in a twitter. The board has three directors hitting the mandatory retirement age of 72, and yet none of them are leaving. These outside experts view the Home Depot board as clubby, chummy, non-independent and generally poor at succession planning. That all may be true, but don't expect shareholders to flip out about board retirements the way they did about shipping cash from their pockets to the CEO.
Cisco Gets in the Best Quote on the iPhone (Infectious Greed)
Perhaps the only real surprise from yesterday's iPhone launch was that the iPhone was called the iPhone. There's been a lot made of the fact that "iPhone" is a registered trademark of Cisco, which people assumed would force Apple to come up with something else. It's not yet clear how the whole thing has been resolved. Apparently, Apple has been negotiating with Cisco for two years over rights to use the name, and basically Cisco has laid out some clear terms under what condition they use it. But they've never signed anything. Cisco takes yesterday's announcement as a signal that they will sign the dotted line and agree to the licensing terms, although it's possible that they're just going to go it alone and let the chips fall where they may. Of course, for such a huge product, with so much riding on it, it's hard to imagine they'd go to launch without everything totally resolved.
US Airways Raises Delta Offer to $10.2 Billion (Dealbook)
During our travels over Christmas we found ourselves standing in line talking to a Delta rep, dealing with some hassle or another. As a door swung open behind her, leading to their back office we saw a sign hanging on the wall that said "Just Say No To US Airways, Keep Delta Independent." Today Delta stakeholders have $2 billion more reasons to consider selling out, as US Airways has raised its bid for the bankrupt carrier. It's doubtful that the extra cash will do much to sway management, but if they wanted to create more tension between the company's creditors and the top brass, this would be a good way to do it.