Opening Bell: 5.18.07

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Mortgage problems are manageable, Bernanke says (AP)
This is odd. Apparently some guy named Ben Bernanke (?) who says he's the head of the Federal Reserve (ooookaaay) says that the nation's mortgage woes are manageable. Ok Mr. Chairman, you're the boss, whatever you say. But in America, we take our cues from Mr. Greenspan, not fly-by-night impostors. Meanwhile, a number of Congressman grilled Bernanke on the lax regulations that supposedly got into this mess. Hey Congress, regulations are your job, not the Fed's. Meanwhile, as for this Bernanke fellow, Alex Tabarrok says he's not a credit snob, which is a major compliment.
GE said close to selling plastics to Sabic or Basell (MarketWatch)
If the trade deficit keeps you up at night, this is the kind of news that you don't like to see. GE is close to selling its plastics division and the leading candidate is Saudi Basic Industries Corp. In othewords, all that oil money that they get from us is now being used to loot our assets -- just like Lenovo taking the computer division away from IBM. Of course this is just one way to look at it. GE is going to be $11 billion richer in cash, which is pretty nice for them. And it's the company that's pushing for a sale, so they're not really being looted in some way. In fact, it's been a pretty weak unit for 'em, just like computers were to IBM. So if all of our cash will come back home in exchange for some low-margin underperforming units, then by all means.
China widens yuan trading band to half-percent a day (MarketWatch)
Get out the Drudge siren. China has expanded the trading band of the Yuan to half-percent of a day. If you think this has any significance then take note.
Wolfowitz Quits World Bank; Successor Search Starts (Bloomberg)
Under a ton of pressure, Word Bank Prez Paul Wolfowitz will finally be stepping down amid allegations that he used his position to help out his girlfriend at the bank. Felix Salmon has finally got his wish, though it's worth noting that Wolfy did have his share of defenders, including a lot of folks at the Journal. Of course his successor will come from the US per tradition. Any suggestions?


Discovery Rechannels Assets (Washington Post)
Discovery communications, the parent company of the Discovery Channel, home to such fine programming as Mythbusters (awesome), Planet Earth (awesome) and deadliest catch (awesome) is going to slice away 1,000 employees, or a third of its workforce as it looks to pare down underperforming assets. It sounds like a lot of these layoffs will come from its Discovery stores, as it plans to close all 103 of them. It was probably silly of the company to think it needed a retail strategy at all.
Inkling & Surowiecki & Safeway at BNET (Knowledge Problem)
Yes, apparently the world did need another business news site. The people behind CNET, the publicly traded tech news and review site, have launched (get this) BNET. New business news sites are great because they offer the illusion that if you go there and read something interesting it might not be something that everyone else already knows, even though everyone else already knows it, or will know it soon enough. Still, there's no doubt that that's part of the allure. Like, you definitely can't say that for Forbes.com. If you're reading something there, say, about a stock you're following, you might as well forget about trading on the news, since it's already been priced in . And if you didn't think we needed another business news site, then you probably didn't think we needed Portfolio, which shows how much you know.
Fox Business Channel Starting On $100 Million Budget? (PaidContent)
And speaking of new business media, more juicy morsels about our favorite subject, the Fox Business Channel! Apparently the network will start with just a $100 million budget, which is pretty small for a cable channel (supposedly). That's how much money went into a Portfolio, and this will have pictures and live anchors, and hopefully shots of the trading floor. It's also slated to launch in October. You might want to call your cable provider now to request that they carry it.
Turnaround Effort Is Challenging at Airbus, a Stew of European Cultures (NYT)
Hey get this, due to stuff like culture and politics in Europe, it's not going to be so easy to turn around the ailing Airbus. But at least the company's new boss seems to be identifying the problem correctly. One of his first rules was to get rid of national flags, so no putting up a picture of the German flag when you're giving a Powerpoint presentation. As he sees it (and we agree), Airbus can't act like a real company with France, Spain and Germany all seeking to preserve their national interests. So despite the challenges, word is that the new guy is actually doing alright. Good to hear. Boeing can't do well without meaningful competition.
Cheating as Status Symbol (Overcoming Bias)
What's the world's most dishonest demographic? Women who drive vans. Click the link to find out more. Hey, it's Friday.

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