Opening Bell: 4.4.07

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25% Odds Of Big Hurricane In Refining Belt (Cattle Network)
Following 2005's devastating hurricane season, everyone was predicting big things for last year's, but that turned out to be a major bust. It looks like forecasters are calling for rain once again this year, as there's high chance of a very active season, and a 25% chance that at least one hurricane will smack the refining belt like Katrina did. All told, there will be 17 named storms, according to the study released by Colorado State, nine of which will be hurricanes. Oh, and they've even come up with an excuse for being so wrong last year. Can you guess it? It's the same excuse that every business uses when their earnings are soft: El Nino.
DaimlerChrysler confirms Chrysler deal talks (MarketWatch)
Apparently, the fact that Daimler is shopping Chrysler around was the worst-kept secret in the auto industry, but honestly, we didn't even realize it was a secret at all. After all, the whole thing got started after some comments by Dr. Z. indicating that Chrysler may no longer be a welcome member of the family. Anyway, in case you had any doubt, Dr. Z. has confirmed that the company has had talks pertaining to Chrysler, although he didn't say much more than that.
Oil continues slide on Iran hopes (Reuters)
How long does the whole Iranian hostage situation have to go on before it becomes decouples from the price of oil? After all, eventually oil has to start moving on things like supply and demand, right? t=The latest is that the price of a barrel has edged close to $64 (it was close to $66 yesterday) on news that the two sides are starting to talk to each other. Quick prediction: The hostages won't be released until a new prime minister takes power in the UK. It'll be like their Ronald Reagan/Jimmy Carter moment, and everyone will wonder whether the new guy had something to do with their release.
Inside Wal-Mart's 'Threat Research' Operation (WSJ)
When a Wal-Mart employee was sacked a few weeks ago for apparently recording a phone call with the a New York Times reporter, it was made to look like an isolated incident. But there's a reason the mob doesn't fire people, once they're out in the wild, they can talk. And now that fired employee is alleging a much larger scheme on the part of the company to spy on everyone from shareholders, to anti-Wal-Mart groups, and even the company's suppliers. Apparently, the company even developed technology to determine when people outside the company that were hooked into Wal-Mart's network had porn on their screens -- although we're not sure why they were interested in that. Overall, the employee painted a picture of a deeply paranoid company (although perhaps for good reason). Then again, maybe he's just a lone gunman looking to extend his 15 minutes.


Tribune suitors not giving up (NYT)
Word is that the billionaires from LA, Broad and Burkle, are not giving up in their quest to get the Tribune. That's the great thing about buyout wars, they're not like an eBay auction. Someone can "win", but then still have victory snatched from them after the bell sounds. It's not yet clear whether they'll make another bid -- maybe they'll just make a deal with Zell to take control of the LA Times, since it sounds like that's what they really want. David Geffen also want the LA Times still, which confirms that for the LA crowd the whole thing is mainly an ego trip, or a chance to give them a soapbox and a bullhorn.
Reebok launches a legal turf fight (Boston Globe)
Reebok is suing Nike for patent infringement, as it hopes to enjoin Nike from selling a "collapsible" shoe that can be rolled up and stored in a suit case. Reebok claims to have received a patent on the core "technology" back in January, and so it hopes to monopolize the collapsible shoe market. Our advice is to just let this go. After all, why would these companies want to bring attention to the fact that they've developed such an abortion of a shoe? The "pump" was silly enough, wasn't it? Oh and Reebok, maybe instead of suing, you could try making shoes that people want to wear, since right now that title goes to Nike.
Vermont Becomes ‘Offshore’ Insurance Haven (NYT)
Having spent several years in Vermont, we always had it pegged as pretty much a haven for hippies and neo-socialist New York City castaways looking to commune with nature. None of this is to say it isn't a fine state though. So it's really surprising to read that the state, beginning with a plan by then-governor Howard Dean has turned itself into a Mecca for captive insurance companies -- insurers that are wholly owned subsidiaries of the companies whose assets they insure. Turns out the state offers rather generous tax incentives for companies that locate there, making it the equivalent of a landlocked Bermuda with better skiing. And with that we have a new found respect for the state we once called home.
Will a Hedge Fund Become the Next Goldman Sachs? (Dealbook)
Dealbook asks the provocative question of the morning, turning around the old trope about Goldman Sachs just being a big hedge fund. Instead, it points out the the mega hedge fund Citadel is looking more and more like an i-bank. In addition to its direct investing activities, Citadel also operates a large stock loan division, has become a major market maker in options and even runs two reinsurance companies (better watch out for that Atlantic hurricane season boys). It also provides business administration for other hedge funds, which is a reliable moneymaker.

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