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Opening Bell: 8.17.07

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Whole Foods Close to Obtaining Wild Oats (AP)
How flimsy is the FTC's argument against the Wild Oats deal? So flimsy that even with the Mackey message board posts and the leaks of Mackey's boardroom statements, a judge has rejected the agency's argument right off the bat, paving the way for the deal to go through. The FTC could appeal, but it would probably be best of them to move on. Bring on the overpriced taro root.
Asian Markets Fall; Tokyo Down 5.4 Pct. (AP)
Yesterday's stunning reveral of fortune on US markets (and by the way, the Opening Bell is quite proud of everyone for turning things around on a dime like that) did little to inspire confidence overseas. The Asian markets, which have been taking gutshot punches every night it seems continue to get pummelled into oblivion. The Japanese market fell 5.4% overnight, while the Kospi lost another 3.2% after a 6.9% drop the night before.
Dubai Bids $4 Billion for OMX, Trumping Nasdaq Bid (Bloomberg)
Friggin' Dubai! Just when the NASDAQ looks like its safely going to come away with a European exchange, Sweden's OMX, Borse Dubai has trumped 'em, offering $4 billion for prize. That bid comes in at 14.4% than the NASDAQ's offer, although the NASDAQ has suffered so much humiliation of late, that we wouldn't be totally surprised to see it fight back anyway.
2 big firms add to crisis in mortgages (Boston Globe)
The A big story this week, other than the overall gyrations of the market, has been Countrywide, whose share have been crushed and whose bonds offer staggering returns (read: people think they're going bankrupt). Despite the fact that this must be a reality, nobody wants to even think about that possibility, least of all Countrywide itself, so it's been careful to describe things in the least offensive language that it possibly can -- namely that it will just be a little tighter about funding mortgages going forward. Meanwhile, another mortgage lender, First Magnus Financial Corp., based in Tucson, said it will cease buying mortgages altogether, although it's only a top 10 buyer in New England, so who cares? By the way, we'd love it if someone that has acquired a mortgage in the last few weeks could relate what things are like from a consumer's perspective.

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Dell to restate 4 years of results after audit ends (Reuters)
So Dell's gone a long time without stating any earnings or anything, but because it's Dell which is (was?) one of the world's premier tech companies, the NASDAQ was never going to delist it or do anything foolish like that. The company finally revealed the results of an investigation into accounting irregularities -- turns out management had been deliberately misstating results for the past four years. But get this, the total effect is somewhere on the order of $50 million - $150 million. Not real big. Sort of makes you wonder what management was thinking by risking prison time just to add a penny here or there.
Wal-Mart Eyes Smaller And Higher-End Stores (WSJ)
Wal-Mart has made several attempts to go after affluent shoppers (sushi stands, organic foods), but every effort has run into the same problem -- it's not easy getting rich people to step into a Wal-Mart store. It's not that they don't want a good deal. They'll go to Costco no problem, but Wal-Mart? Erm, no. So, instead of asking the wealthy to come in, Wal-Mart is now looking to meet them half way, launching two new concept stores targeted at an upscale shopper. The first will be a convenience store, packed with high-end goods, including food, while the other one will be a health-focused, small-form store. As we see it, the one advantage that Wal-Mart has is its ability to source cheaply, and so it makes sense to target the affluent while retaining its low cost base. That being said, it better not let people know that these stores have anything to do with the Bentonville, or it'll undermine the whole thing.
At Treasury, the Secretary Waits It Out (NYT)
The Times notes that Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson hasn't really done much to stem the market's struggles these days. Fair enough. But we feel sorry for Hank, we really do. After all, what's a Treasury Secretary supposed to do in a time like this? Truth is, there's not much he can do. His job mainly consists of putting on a happy face and jawboning the dollar. Jawboning and jib-jabbing stopped working a loooong time ago, at least with respect to the currency and every time he smiles, folks call nim naive. Still, we'd imagine he's preferring this job at the moment than his previous gig.
Edwards, Foreclosure Critic, Has Investing Tie to Subprime Lenders (WSJ)
As we see it, everyone is a hypocrite and that's okay. It's unavoidable. That being said, we still get satisfaction from seeing John Edwards get dinged on charges that he was investing in subprime lending through his investment in Fortress Group. Not only is he a hypocrite (to some extent), but now he's losing money.