Microsoft's Gates again tops list of world's richest people (AP)
Microsoft's search strategy may be stuck in neutral (if not reverse), its Zune will never be the iPod, and sales of Vista may be ho-hum, but none of that means jack because Bill Gates is still the richest man in the universe. The universe. In fact, his net worth rose in the last year by $6 billion, to $56 billion. Of course, coming in 2nd was his bridge partners (and partner in philanthropy) Warren Buffett, who actually saw his wealth increase by $10 billion, putting him just $4 billion behind Gates.
CVS Ups Caremark Bid Again with Bigger Dividend (Reuters)
CVS needs some help in the closing department. Although it should have locked down Caremark ages ago, the company has been dogged Express Scripts' tenacious bidding for the pharmacy-benefits manager. The company has now come back with its "best and final" offer of $54.12 per share and a one time dividend of $7.50 to Caremark shareholders. At this point, we hope they're serious about best and final, since it's getting to the point where they should probably just walk away. Stay tuned, a vote on things should be less than a week away.
China to promote 'green' autos (China Daily)
Look there, even China is jumping on the 'green' bandwagon. Of course, you shouldn't read to much into this, because there's not much there. Some commission produced a report that suggested some investment into alternative energy, along with some policy recommendations for allowing prototypes to roam the streets. Trust us, the country's not going to do anything to seriously impact its growth, the way the EU would. They're really just playing the game, sort of like Wal-Mart.
Vonage told to pay $58 million to Verizon in case (AP)
As if Vonage weren't already completely screwed on crack, now the company has been found guilty of patent infringement, and faces a potential (though rather unlikely) shutdown. Verizon had been going after the company for some time, and in a court system that tends to highly favor the patent holder (even if the patent was totally flimsy), there was never much doubt that the company would win. It's all about the penalty phase, which could drag on for a long long time. Of course, $58 million isn't pocket change for a company like Vonage, which may never reach profitability. And with the specter of a shutdown, it may cough up a lot more just to get Verizon out of its hair.
NFP Day (plus, ADP update) (Big Pictures)
The NFP number comes out today, and Barry Ritholtz explains why you really shouldn't care at all about what this initial number says. Just forget about it. But if you really care that much, just realize that the job creation picture is ugly, by any measure.
Airbus records first ever loss (Guardian)
Well, to use the parlance of the DR Horton CEO, Airbus' year sucked. Like, it really, really sucked. Sucked hard, even. No doubt about it, it sucked. Or maybe it blew. Either way, if there was ever a year for it to book its first ever annual loss, this last year was it. And of course the results hammered the numbers at its parent company EADS, whose year also sucked. And if you're curious, 2007 is supposed to suck some more, with Airbus expected to dip into the red again. Here's to 2008.
Energy Concerns Push Clocks Forward this Weekend (NPR)
In case you didn't realize it, Daylight Savings Time is this weekend, three weeks before it traditionally starts. Some brilliant minds in Washington thought it would be a good way to conserve energy. Also, according to Rep. Ed Markey, who was behind the move, "day light saving just brings a smile to everybody’s faces." Sorry, but that's arguably the dumbest thing we've heard a politician say. It's not bringing a smile to corporate IT chiefs, who are faced with the unpleasant prospect of having to update all kinds of technology to make sure it adequately accounts for the change. Let's just hope that the glitch-prone NYSE gets its act together for Monday.
No signs of risk aversion as investors snap up Jamaican bonds (FT Alphaville)
Attitudes towards emerging market debt make for a good indicator of risk tolerance or aversion. Prior to the recent mini-mini-meltdown, the spread between emerging market yields and US treasuries was at an all-time low. Even now, the spread is half of what it was two years ago. And Jamaice now has the honor of the first emerging market to successfully complete a new bond offering since the turbulence began. The country managed to unload $350 million 32 year bonds, $100 million more than it had originally targeted. The paper is trading at a yield of 8.12%, 3.46% over treasuries. That being said, if you really want to gauge sentiment, keep your eye on Ecuador.
New Century Stops Accepting Loan Applications (Dow Jones)
Just in case there was any doubt about how ugly things are in the subprime space, New Century Financial, one of the leading victims of the subprime collapsed has announced that it will stop offering any new mortgages. Because of its troubles, it's had its funding cut off, and it sure as hell isn't going to loan its own money out. This is probably not a surprise, to the traders that have whacked 90% off of its value already this year, but it spells out pretty clearly that things are going bad.
"China Falls 12.2% in 8 Days!" (Ticker Sense)
Now that we have a little space from the recent sell off, time to get some perspective. Over at Ticker Sense they make an interesting observation about the Chinese market. This recent sell off was actually the second one in the past month or so. The market actually fell by 12% at the end of January, but generated few headlines. Why? Cause the S&P sailed along swimmingly. The market then quickly erased its losses, making brand new highs, before falling more recently, which then (maybe) led to the global chaos that we saw. And, already, the index is quickly making up its losses, heading higher yet again. Take from that what you will.