Opening Bell: 4.3.07

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The Cycle Turns, and Airline Shares Have Fans Again (NYT)
In our life, we've found that even those people that are the most apathetic towards business know the old line about "how do you become a millionaire? Become a billionaire and invest in an airline." Airline failure has been such a reoccurring theme of pop culture, that everyone gets the joke. You could probably say the same thing about disk drive or stent makers, but nobody would really get it. Still, every once in a while the industry has its moments -- there has to be some reason why people would even take a stab at the industry -- and that moment appears to be now. Some analysts expect the industry to top its record profits of $5.4 billion, which was set in 1999. And it should be noted that all of this is coming during a period of enormous fuel costs, which long have been considered the bane of the industry's operations.
Junk Bonds in Europe Rise for 9th Month, Match Rally (Bloomberg)
The market spasms from just over a month ago may have caused some nightmares, but remember nightmares are dreams. When you wake up, you shake 'em off, and acknowledge that they have no significance in real life -- maybe you make a mental note about not taking your vitamins right before bed. And so it seems that any fears of global investors are mainly confined to their sleep. In Europe, junk bonds are staging their longest ever rally, as the class turns in gains for the 9th month in a row. High corporate profits and a lack of defaults is helping things, and there's little fear, yet, that the malaise in some areas, like US subprime mortgages for example, will cause problems elsewhere.
EU Launches Antitrust Probe Into iTunes (AP)
Word leaked last night, and now it's been confirmed that the EU has officially launched an antitrust probe into Apple's iTunes music store, exploring the question of whether the company is in violation of the law by charging different prices to citizens of different countries. This is typical, lame EU antitrust behavior. It seems pretty arbitrary, it's not clear where the real harm is, and most importantly, it seems to be calculated to go after companies that are doing to well. If it's an American company, it's even worse.
Europe tops US in stock market value (Financial Times)
Maybe the US is losing its preeminence to Europe. For the first time since WWI, the combined value of European exchanges has eclipsed that of the US. The tally stands at $15.72 trillion to $15.64 trillion. A big factor contributing to Europe's rise has been the strength of the Euro, without which the continent would be nowhere close. But it's also been helped by the booming Russian market, as well strength in Eastern Europe. Ultimately, over time, you'd expect the European market to grow larger, and one day the Chinese market will probably be bigger as well. But such nominal values don't really mean a whole lot to anyone. It's just a way to measure things.


Commodities: Oil rises above $65 a barrel amid U.K.-Iran standoff (IHT)
Some things that the Iran-UK standoff may be thawing are doing little to convince the oil markets that we're no on the verge of Armageddon. And so in keeping with pre-Armageddon market tendencies, oil prices neared $66 per barrel. It can't help much that the latest reports have the US somehow being involved, and that there's more to the story than the Brits or the US would like to let on. If Iran is at all "right" that it was transgressed upon, you probably shouldn't hold your breath waiting for a quick "sorry" from the West to resolve the situation.
A New Owner Who Is Hedging His Bets (NYT)
Some combination of navel gazing and obsession with its own mortality is causing the newspaper industry to treat the purchase of the Chicago Tribune as though it were the biggest news in years. It's basically the only story that the Times business section is talking about today. The real interesting question is the one that's not being asked -- what is Sam Zell going to do to turn the paper around? Nobody knows, it seems, and nobody cares. Or maybe they all know, and don't want to talk about it, because it might involve words like "layoffs" and "newsroom cuts", which are anathema to all reporters.
Google Furthers TV Push With Dish Deal (WSJ)
Google continues its push to expand its advertising business outside of its traditional realm. The company has struck up a deal with satellite TV provider Echostar to manage the bidding and placement of ads for the company. But is this really that big of a deal? Auctions should make pricing a little more efficient, but it's not clear what the big breakthrough is here. And how hard is it to manage an auction. What's Google really bringing to the table with this deal?
Netezza Prepares for $100 Million I.P.O. (Dealbook)
The IPO market is hot right now, and plenty of companies are hoping to jump in as long as the window is open. Netezza, a data warehousing firm that competes with NCS Terradata (which is being spun off) is preparing to do a $100 million offering. And yesterday it was announced that ComScore, which counts local venture capitalist Fred Wilson among its board members, announced plans to storm the public market. The company analyzes traffic and consumer behavior on the web.

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