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Opening Bell: 4.24.07

Yell warns U.S. growth to slow to 3 pct, shares dive (Reuters)
The British firm Yell warned that its growth in the US would slow, prompting a hit to its shares. You know what Yell does, right? Hint, it's Yell as in yellow. Hint that's yellow as in Yellow Book. But yeah, believe it or not, these things are still major cash cows; they're even still growing (although apparently at a slower pace than in the past). So, when was the last time that you used a phone book to get a number? We honestly can't remember; that could be part of the company's problem.
Toyota Surpasses GM in Global Sales in First Quarter (Bloomberg)
This is new news that really feels like really old news. For the first time, Toyota has sold more cars than GM (globally) in the first quarter. Toyota raced ahead on the back of 9% growth, while GM turned in a modest 3% gain. The company also gained 13% in the US do to demand for its Prius and from output at its San Antonio truck factory. As has been heaviy discussed, the company plans on opening up several more plants throughout the south. This reminds us of a funny discussion we had this weekend about the auto industry. Remember back in the 90s, whenever you were discussing some iconic American brand, like Maytag, people would always interject as a throwaway "Maytags (which are probably built in Mexico)..." as way of sort of disparaging the company? Now people do that with Toyota, so they say "Toyotas (which are actually built in the US)", which is just the opposite, but doesn't really have the same oomph. It's not even clear what they're trying to get across.
Top Hedge Fund Managers Earn Over $240 Million (NYT)
Oh look, it's an article about high levels of compensation in the New York Times. Stop the presses. Apparently, some hedge fund managers make lots and lots of money. What's funny is that this is the Times' excuse for news, since, you know, this is sort of an old story. Not only are we several years into the latest hedge fund boom, but there's also been a spate of hedge fund-related articles of late, particularly in magazines. So yeah, for the last time: if you run a successful hedge fund, get ready to make bank.
Clash over N.Y. Times a page turner (LA Times)
Today is the big day of reckoning over at the New York Times, when shareholders are expected to storm the gates and depose the once might Sulzbergers. Well, sort of. First of all, it's not clear how motivated the shareholders actually are to do something about the reviled dual class structure at the times. More importantly, because of the dual class structure, the vote won't have much significance -- sort of like all the non-binding resolutions that Congress passes these days. Still, it should be a fun scene at the meeting. If anyone has any first-hand reports, we'd love it if you passed them on.

Medicare fund to run dry by 2019: trustees (MarketWatch)
A new report says that funding for Medicare will be exhausted in 2019 and that Social Security will run out of money by 2041. The Social Security issue is down the road, and it's probably been a bit overblown. Medicare, on the other hand, is right around the corner, and it's probably quite underblown. There seems to be no impetus whatsoever to do anything about it, and nothing will ever be done to reform it as long as the members of the AARP are the only people who vote.
Sarkozy Bets on Supply, Royal on Demand for Economy (Bloomberg)
The more you read about the French election and the upcoming May 6 runoff, the stark the choice seems to be. As Bloomberg puts it, it really comes down to supply-side vs. demand-side, with the latter being championed by the socialist Segolene Royal. Her vision is that the economy can be improved by offering, get this, more guarantees to workers in the form of higher minimum wages and stronger pensions. Royal should take a look around. As it is, France is the champion at these things; if that were the key to economic success, it would be owning its European neighbors; alas, it's not.
Running Like a Clock ... and Fast (NYT)
The Times reports that around the world, in places like China, rail travel is proving to be serious competition for airlines, particularly in luring business travelers. Let us speak from personal experience for a moment. This weekend, we had occasion to dart down to DC on the train. It was a short cab ride to get there (unlike going to JFK), and we really only had to show up about 10 minutes before the train ride, very much unlike an airport. There was no obnoxious security or all of the other kinds of delays you get on flights. You just get on quick and the train started rolling. Then, once on the train, we powered up our laptop and (and this is key) stuck in our EVDO card, which gave us internet access for the duration of the 3-hour trip. It was really fantastic. The train isn't particularly trip, but if you're doing a short trip, the time difference isn't that significant, and the experience is far superior. So we can totally see why rail travel is taking off among business travelers, to the detriment of some airlines.
Merrill: It’s back to the future in emerging markets (FT Alphaville)
Emerging markets have had a great run; you've probably made some money on them over the last few years. But it turns out that the best is yet to come, at least according to Merrill. They say that the current bull run heretofore is just the appetizer, and that the MSCI could see 20% annualized gains through 2010, as subprime lenders inflate an emerging markets assets bubble. In other words: party. Seriously, get read to step outside, pull out your t-shirt forward and catch as much cash as you can.
Hollywood Meets Hedge Funds, Courtesy of Milken (Dealbook)
An event put on in Hollywood by Michael Milken's Milken Institute drew big crowds, as the Tinseltown elite lined up to hear speeches from a number of finance guys that in most circles would be considered no-names. Even in Dealbook, only their firms warrant a boldface. The standard view is that finance and hedge fund guys are attracted to Hollywood, in part because of their ego and their desire for glamor. But are these supposedly publicity shy folks really in Hollywood for the fun of it. Maybe it's the reverse, that every actor really wants to be a hedge fund chief these days.