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Opening Bell: 7.18.07

Dow Jones Board Backs Murdoch Bid; Bancrofts to Vote (Bloomberg)
Jeez, how many votes does this have to come to? So the Journal board ended up agreeing to the big, and now it's just up to the Bancrofts. It's assumed that they'll go along with it, but it's conceivable that they'll have a last minute change of heart. Maybe they'll realize that the Bancroft clan is nothing with out a big, public media empire to lord over. Hopefully, they'll realize that money rules and that they aren't allergic to it.
Whole Foods' Board Forms Committee to Probe Chief (Bloomberg)
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey apologized for his message board postings, but that's probably not going to be enough to put the issue to bed. Whole Foods has announced that it will convene a new committee to investigate the issue. Sorta sucks when the company endorses a mutiny. And with the way public companies are run, there's nothing Mackey can do, cause technically he's just an employee of the shareholders.
F.D.A. Inspections Lax, Congress Is Told (NYT)
It turns out that the FDA can't monitor every single thing that gets sold in the US. Who knew? Of course, despite a few high profile instances, food safety in the US seems pretty damn good. Ok, a couple of spinach e. coli patients last year. That sucks. Tainted toothpaste from China. Not good, better stick with the known brands. But on the whole, we don't have much to complain about. The real scandal here is that we're paying so much to run an agency, which, even if it fails, isn't in a position to take down the food supply.
Southwest Posts 17% Fall in Net, Hurt By Fuel Costs, Empty Seats (WSJ)
How the mighty have fallen. Southwest, once the one and only unimpeachable airline, has become just another dog. The company posted weak capacity numbers, in part due to its overly aggressive expansion and it was also hurt by fuel costs, which would've been a mathematical impossibility just two years ago. Back then, it had all its fuel all nice and hedged, but people were starting to talk about the coming day when the hedges might run out. The hope at Southwest was that energy prices would drop before it had to start paying market rates again. Well, no such luck. Another sign of its bloat: the company offered any employee $20,000 to retire.

Yahoo Posts Lower Profit, Gives Weak 2007 Forecast (InformationWeek)
Surprise, surprise, Yahoo posts punk earnings once again, and it didn't have anything nice to say about the rest of the year. CEO Jerry Yang says he plans to spend the next 100 days developing a strategic plan. Well it's about time.
Honda to Build Jet-Engine Plant in North Carolina (Bloomberg)
The rise of southern manufacturing continues to be an untold economic story. The major Asian automakers have been building like crazy down there, and contrary to popular economic myths, it's not just "end assembly". Granted, this isn't car-related, but Honda plans to build a new jet-engine plant in North Carolina. Engines aren't end products, they're components -- and rather complex ones at that.
Limiting Ads of Junk Food to Children (NYT)
A handful of major food companies have pledged to stop advertising to children unless they are able to reduce the sugar and calories of their products. Well, they have to reduce fat too, but fat content is overrated as an indicator of a food products unhealthiness. The move is intended to head off any regulation at the pass, although it's unlikely to satisfy public health activists over the long run, as it's always been their plan to make junk food the next cigarettes. Seriously, if you're really concerned about the health of kids, then you should tell parents to wake up and stop buying the little brats junk just because they throw a tantrum. If you can't go to the grocery store without them freaking out, order your food online. It's not that hard.
Pfizer Earnings Decline on Generics, Drop in Lipitor (Bloomberg)
Turns out generic competition for blockbuster drugs really, really sucks, as Pfizer can now attest. The company's earnings were slammed, as sales of Lipitor are down, with nothing in the pipeline ready to replace it. This is the pits of the boom/bust cycle associated with such a blockbuster-driven industry. Funny enough, it seems that every industry with this model is experiencing the same thing right now. Hollywood superjumbo blockbusters continue to disappoint, with studio bosses scrambling to figure out how to replace them (hint: sequels). Imagine if there were a YouTube for drugs.
Another Black Eye for Corn-based Ethanol (Knowledge Problem)
Ethanol, AKA yellow gold (that's supposed to be a joke), AKA "the answer", continues to take hits to its reputation. Now only is our subsidizing of it driving up the price of almost everything, it's causing a lot of pollution. Awesome.