Opening Bell: 5.15.07

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Home Depot Q1 profit slides (AFX)
Continuing the trend of soft retail earnings this quarter, Home Depot reported weak results due to the poor housing market and the weather. Without digging too deeply into the results, we're guessing it's fairly safe to say that one of those causes was a lot more dominant than the other. In other words, it sounds like "the weather" was just thrown in there to disguise the fact that a serious economic shift has occurred, much to the company's detriment. The day that a retailer doesn't blame the weather will be a miracle, but at least most people don't really buy it anymore.
Americans in Study Rate IRS Ahead of U.S. Airlines on Service (Bloomberg)
You always have to be skeptical of studies based on polls and perceptions, but regardless of the methodology, this one is pretty bad. According to the American people, both United and Delta airlines receive lower marks for service than that much-hated IRS. To be fair, the IRS has always gotten a bad rap in our book. After all, it's Congress that made the laws, the IRS just meekly enforces them. It's not the IRS' fault that the tax code is so convoluted. So maybe people are just getting wise to the fact that the IRS doesn't really deserve much blame for its actions.
Daimler Net More Than Doubles on Mercedes Recovery, EADS Gain (Bloomberg)
Meanwhile, over at DaimlerChrysler things are just going swimmingly. If you exclude losses stemming from the black sheep Chrysler division, the company is performing quite well, as gains in the Mercedes division more than offset Chrysler's losses.
Hanson accepts £8bn Heidelberg offer (Financial Times)
This deal's been talked about for awhile, but British cement maker Hanson has finally recommended to its shareholders that they accept an offer from Germany's HeidelbergCement. In addition to the direct significance of the deal, it's also interesting since Hanson is apparently the UK's last independently-owned heavy materials company (not exactly sure how that's being defined, however). Seeing has heavy materials were once the so-called commanding heights of the economy, which you'd know if you saw the excellent documentary Commanding Heights, it's interesting to see that they've all become un-Britishized.


Rumors of family stock sale rev up Ford shares (Chicago Tribune)
Yesterday's rumor that the Ford family may be looking to sell Ford pushed the stock higher, as investors were eager to see some strategic alternatives. What's funny is that "yesterday's rumor" was actually last week's rumor. It was just that the news was only in the Detroit Free Press before, as opposed to any major paper. Let us offer a mea culpa now, since the Freep is one of the paper's we often cover in the morning. That being said, it's a case of money just being left on the table for a few days until the story really broke.
Should Alcan Turn the Tables on Alcoa? (Dealbook)
While Alcoa tries to sink its teeth into Alcan, one analyst is proposing an alternative plan. Instead, Alcan should buy Alcoa, in a move that's known as the "PacMan Defense". In other words, Alcan should eat one of the big pellets in the corner of the screen, which would make Alcoa turn temporarily blue (then blue and white), and try for an acquisition during this time. The justification for doing things the other way around is that Alcan, as a Canadian company, would have more regulatory leeway as the Canadian government would be happy not to be losing another national firm to the folks south of the border.
Shock as Sarkozy woos anti-US leftwinger (Times Online)
Just in case you had any doubt about what kind of politician Sarko would be.
Thomson, Reuters Agree On Terms of Merger (WSJ)
We get it, you're merging. Are you going to just repeat yourself day in and day out? Apparently this is news because now they've really hammered out the details on the deal.
The Myth of the Forever Stamp (Productdose)
You probably don't need a degree in finance to realize this, but just in case you had any bright ideas, the new "Forever Stamp" probably won't make for a very good investment. You're essentially just giving the postal service a loan. At best, you might save yourself a trip or two to the post office, or your local deli, but is that so awesome? If you must buy one, buy it for the (minor) convenience, not as an investment, or some sort of currency/inflation hedge.

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