Opening Bell: 2.22.07

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Whole Foods to acquire rival Wild Oats (MarketWatch)
Wild Oats has always been the poor man's Whole Foods. The Colorado-based natural good supermarket never quite gained the same level of national brand recognition or profit as its Austin-based rival. Now the two will become one, as Whole Foods announced the acquisition of Wild Oats. So, how will the government view this. Will it see the obvious reality, that the two companies compete with a range of stores, from traditional grocers to Wal-Mart and food co-ops? Or will they see Whole Foods as owning 100% of the natural good megachain market? We're guessing the former, but you never know.
Toll's Net Drops on Land Writedowns, Falling Orders (Bloomberg)
Luxury home builder Toll Brothers turned in another rough quarter, as earnings dropped by 67% due to falling sales and major writedowns of assets. The good news is that we've finally seen the bottom of the housing market. No really, this has to be it. Really, this has to be the floor. Turnaround city, here we come.
Global Economy Shrugs Off Oil, Housing Strains (WSJ)
Look around you, things are going pretty good. At least from an economic point of view, the big threats of housing collapses and and oil-induced recessions aren't playing out. Even Japan, home of little growth and the 0% interest rate is feeling confident enough to raise its to a growth-halting .5%. Ok, maybe that's not too much. But for a country that doesn't need to be told to stash its money away, the fact that it's interest rate is that high is saying something. Of course, there are worries, that investors are ignoring the dark side, assuming that everything from internet stocks to Ecuadorian bonds are going to pay off. But for now, everything's quiet, if not too quiet.
Dollar Strengthens as Fed Speakers May Signal Inflation Risks (Bloomberg)
Inflation isn't typically seen as a positive force for a currency. But in the sometimes seemingly backwards world of currency traders it can be. That's because in an environment where inflation remains a concern, we won't see any more interest rate cuts. In fact, we may even see a hike or a tightening, if you will. Of course, the stock market tends to behave just as silly. How many times have the markets rallied on bad economics news because it means the fed might slash rates?


The Suitors for Chrysler Grow Sparse (NYT)
Not surprisingly, there's not exactly a long line outside of Daimler's full of eager callers looking to take Chrysler's hand. So far, the only companies that have indicated anything on Chrysler all say that they're not interested. The company may then be forced to sell the division in chunks -- sort of like when you sell your car for pieces rather than the whole thing, because it's just not worth the effort to make it run.
Settlement Lets Apple Use ‘iPhone’ (NYT)
Well, that's solved. Apple and Cisco announced that they have ended their squabbles over the name iPhones and have arrived at some sort of settlement allowing Apple to sell their phone with that name come this summer. The companies were light on terms of the deal, so it's not known how many iPods Apple had to give to Cisco employees as a payoff. The companies also said they hope to make their iPhone products work together in some way. Yeah, right.
States try to calm ire over high property taxes (Stateline.org)
Apparently, in a bid to lower their property taxes, voters in Arizona managed to create their own school district with the express purpose of controlling their own taxation. As it was, they didn't end up building any schools, but sent their kids to neighboring districts -- basically they're just a bunch of freeloaders. That being said, it would be great if it were always that easy. Wouldn't it be nice to carve out a little bit of New York City that doesn't have to pay the city income tax, which is an abomination? It wouldn't be secession, rather it would just be home rule, as they say.
It’s not easy being a hedge fund in Israel (FT Alphaville)
In the US, you have to deal with threats of regulation from the SEC. In Canada they're going to make you take a competency exam. It's not clear what the deal is in Israel, but apparently, it's really tough to get a hedge fund off the ground. The country only has a couple, and Israeli finance experts want more. Of course, having a booming hedge fund industry in Israel would probably provoke more attacks from its neighbors, who would see them as more cultural hegemony from the States.
Buzz Aldrin on Property Rights in Space (Volokh Conspiracy)
If, one day, we need to tap the vast resources of outer space for our needs on earth it's never too early to start talking about property rights in space. Of course, the UN will no doubt try to pass some treaty making it so that nobody "owns" space -- you just know they will. But still, figuring out who owns what, and who can mine what is going to be really important.

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