Opening Bell: 3.5.07

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Asia Stocks Extend Meltdown; Europe Opens Lower (AP)
Anyone hoping that the weekend would put a close to the hectic global situation is probably in for a disappointment. The Asian markets picked up right where they left off on Monday, as the Nikkei got slammed for another 3.3%, with Hong Kong, Australia, Malaysia and other all joining in on the fun, dropping almost as hard. India, too, got shellacked, losing 4.2%. As for Europe, trading is still ongoing, but year, you guessed it, pretty much the same thing. Honestly, we really hope this doesn't continue on much longer, since we're running out of pictures of Asian traders standing in front of a wall of numbers.
U.S. Stock-Index Futures Fall; GM, Caterpillar Drop in Europe (Bloomberg)
And things aren't looking so hot here either. As of now, the stock futures are pointing down, with both the S&P and Dow expected to fall at the outset. Several large stocks also looked to be heading into the red, including Wal-Mart, Caterpiller, GM and even Goldman Sachs.
On the vagaries of a movie's success (Houston's Clear Thinkers)
With more and more Wall St. and hedge fund money going to movie making, it's important to reflect a little bit on this business, and why it's so hard to do well in it. Tom Kirkendall points to the box office results from this weekend as evidence, noting that the apparently execrable "Wild Hogs" had an outstanding weekend at the box, while the critically lauded "Zodiac" (which Time Out New York gave six stars -- practically unheard of for them) merely slouched its way through its opening weekend. In a sense it's obvious that the industry is characterized by extreme randomness, and so investing in winners is not going to be an easy task. On the other hand, it should be clear that there are some big inefficiencies out there to exploit, if you can find and identify 'em.
Motorola Won’t Back Icahn Nomination (Dealbook)
Now there's a shocker, Motorola won't back Carl Icahn's move to get on the company's board. That seems a little rude -- if in fact he does manage to acquire $2 billion of the company's stock, he probably deserves a say in things. We've no doubt that Carl Icahn isn't hurt at all, however. He's probably used to this by now.


Blackstone to buy Tussauds group for 1 bln pounds (Reuters)
Who wants to see wax statues of private equity legends? Hopefully that's what we'll get now that Tussauds, the famed proprietor of wax museums around the globe, has bee sold to Blackstone. The company is fetching 1 billion pounds; perhaps Blackstone sees a lot of "meltdown value", as the statues of certain celebrities may not be worth the wax they're carved in.
US Airways System Snafu Delays Thousands (AP)
All of the hysteria over jetBlue from a couple weeks ago sounded a little overboard to us. People don't really have long attention spans, and they forget that basically every airline has had a meltdown at some point or another. The latest is US Airways, which saw a computer glitch lead to stranded passengers at the airport in Charlotte, NC on Sunday. The winner here is probably jetBlue, which is now no longer the most recent airline to have messed up.
D’Amato Never Folds (NYT)
And now starts the resuscitation of Al D'Amato. After quietly leaving his post after his 1998 defeat to Chuck Schumer, Al D'Amato has a purpose again. He's been hired as the lobbyist for the Poker Players Alliance, which is fighting to carve out a legal exemption to laws aimed at blocking online gambling. The PPA claims 160,000 members, paying a minimum of $20 each to help the lobbying effort, and the group hopes that D'Amato's (who apparently has a love of poker) experience in Washington will help it deliver results. Things may be possible with guys like Frist out and Barney Frank in, though it's probably safe to say that neither side really sees poker players' rights as a priority. In England, there are a bunch of executives that will never travel to the US again (or at least they shouldn't), keenly interested in the outcome of this battle. Just one more thing. The title to this piece "D'Amato Never Folds" is silly, since folding is the soul of the game.
The latest hedge fund must-have: Uranium (FT Alphaville)
Forgive us if you've heard this one before -- we have. Uranium is apparently red hot these days, not just as a fuel, but as a commodity to speculate in. Thing is, uranium has been hot for awhile. For years, newsletters and strange ads in the backs of financial publications have been pounding away at uranium, as if it were some combination of gold and oil that nobody had heard of. Maybe we would have bought some too, but all of the ads made the same cardinal mistake. They were all accompanied by a chart that showed soaring prices. The message was that this was some red hot stuff that's going up, up, up. The message we got was that the run had already happened, so time to look at Einsteinium futures. Meanwhile, the price has quadrupled in the last four years, dammit.

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