Opening Bell: 8.1.07

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Ford and G.M. Expect a July Sales Drop (NYT)
Apparently, the world's karmic forces decided that we've already had too much good news from the auto companies over the last couple of weeks. What with Ford's surprise profit and GM's beat, order had to be restored. Looks like thing won't stay swimmingly forever, as the two companies are expected to post weak July sales. What's more, the companies are going to get back on the incentives treadmill, as they hope to clear out old inventory to make room for the new.
Apple, Traders, and Sqeegee Boys (Paul Kedrosky)
Shares of Apple took a bit of a beating yesterday after rumors surfaced that the company might cut production of iPhones -- no wait, that it might cut production of iPods, er, something like that. As Paul K duly notes, the whole rumor was probably garbage, but it did take a nice little dent out of Apple's market cap. The thing is, even if the rumor was total bunkum, the fact that the stock sold off as it did is telling -- as confident as investors are (as evidenced by the run-up), they're also really nervous. Check out the Yahoo! Apple message boards -- the retail investors, many of whom have presumably made out quite well on the stock, sound like they're ready to self immolate at the first sign of trouble. The company is doing great, but it obviously has no margin for error.
Dow Jones Deal Gives Murdoch a Coveted Prize (NYT)
Whoohoo, deal is done. Somehow we're not expecting Brad Greenspan to come in and snatch the company away from Murdoch's jaws.
Lender Agrees to Contribution of $2 Million to a Student Fund (NYT)
Remember a few years ago when there was all that talk about student loan scandals? Yeah, we hardly remember it either, beyond the basic. Anyway, one of the companies involved has really had the book thrown at them -- like, ouch. Nelnet, the country's third largest lender, will have to pay -- get this -- $2 million into a fund to help high school students learn about financing college. The company settled the deal with New York AG Andrew Cuomo -- let's just say that couldn't have imagined Eliot Spitzer agreeing to such light terms, even if they were totally justified.


Whole Foods 3rd-quarter profit tops expectations (Reuters)
For all its problems with Yahoo! message boards, Wild Oats, Perry Odak and the FTC, it turns out that Whole Foods still knows how to sell a bottle of kombucha or two. Buoyed by new store opening, the company exceeded earnings expectations, sending its shares higher in the evening session. Perhaps people will realize that the hits this company has taken lately aren't quite so bad as they seem. If the FTC succeeds in preventing the Wild Oats buy, it's not the end of the world. As for Rahodeb, that probably won't have much of a material impact on the company's bottom line. And if you go into any Whole Foods -- say the one on Union Square -- you'll see that people still queue up like crazy.
Oilsands spurred to gains by soaring crude oil prices (Vancouver Sun)
Strength in the price of oil continues to make the Canadian oil sands an appealing place to do business, despite the miserable conditions. Yesterday, Marathon Oil announced a $5.8 billion bid for Western Oil Sands, which is working in the Athabasca oil sands. After the deal was announced, CNBC had a great aerial shot of the sands, and you know what? It's really sand. That's not just some industry term to describe something that's not quite light sweet crude. It's sandy and dirty and costs a helluva lot to refine. But, with oil at $78, it's still worth it.
Macquarie flags losses at two funds on subprime woes (Reuters)
Put a red pin over Australia! Macquarie bank, the Goldman of Down Under, has announced that it will suffer as a result of the subprime crunch, noting that some funds, particularly highly-leveraged ones investing in illliquid assets, will be particularly hard hit. Shares were of 10% on the news.
Stock poised to open lower (BusinessWeek)
Yesterday we were told that stocks would open higher -- they did, but in the end, the wall of worry sank the whole boat. Today it's already looking grim. Maybe the prognosticators and the futures will be just as wrong.
Why Harvard Is Smarting (WSJ)
The Harvard endowment will have to uncharacteristically break out the crimson-colored ink, as it recognizes a staggering $350 million in losses associated with the meltdown at Sowood. Granted, it's harvard, and it's still got a ton of money, then again $350 million is $350 million.

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