Opening Bell: 8.22.07

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Upper Deck ends proposal to acquire Topps Co. (MarketWatch)
When we were, oh, 17 years younger this would've been the most important M&A deal of all time to us. Now it's more like "whoa, those companies are still around?" every time we hear an update on this story. Anyway, Upper Deck has announced that it will cease its attempt to purchase trading card company Topps, noting fierce resistance on the part of Topps management. It's been a long long time since the last time we purchased a pack of cards (okay, not entirely true -- we bought a pack of 1993 Fleer cards from a vending machine at Eckerd last year), but at least back then, Upper Deck were always expensive and glossy, while Topps were cheap and cardboardy. Anyone know how it is today?
Judge unmoved by Whole Foods CEO's merger comments (Reuters)
Now that the reasoning in the Whole Foods/Wild Oats case has been unsealed, we can see what the judge thought of all the zany development that occured leading up to his decision. Other than the Yahoo message boards fiasco, the other big bombshell of the case was revelation of certain things John Mackey said to the board, indicating that a merger would give Whole Foods pricing power. Turns out, the judge really didn't care much about that. One antitrust lawyer summed it up perfectly, saying "antitrust is really not about what people say. It really is about how markets work and what companies can do after a merger".
Fed's Strategy of Increasing Liquidity Survives for a Third Day (Bloomberg)
That little thing about the discount window notwithstanding, the Fed has yet to indicate a willingness to cut lending rates (although the market has certainly been predicting as such). At this point, the plan of attack is simply to increase liquidity, a different play than the one Greenspan & Co. ran when they faced a crisis. Of course, to make a distinction between cheap cash and plentiful cash is a bit disingenuous, seeing as the latter will certainly turn into the former given enough time.
Bonuses on Wall Street Threatened by Credit Crunch (Bloomberg)
Bonus season is a lot like Christmas -- the fun, the disappointment, the anticipation, the jealousy and the fact that it seems to start earlier and earlier every year. We've already mentioned it a few times here, and now that Wall Street is acting so wildly, it only makes sense to discuss the effect on bonuses. It goes without saying that bonuses could be really skimpy at certain hedge funds, particularly ones that have been crushed by volatility. On the whole, some expect bonuses to be down 5% from last year, which would still make them pretty high. Anyway, few folks have any idea, so its best to wait until some anonymous, unverifiable memos start hitting our screen.

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Stocks set to open higher (CNNMoney)
Breathe easy. As of 4:53 ET, stocks look set to open higher as yields on short-term bonds have finally edged back up, suggesting perhaps that the buying panic is over. Across Asia and Europe, markets put in a gain, although Japan finished in the red.
Ameritrade, E - Trade Discuss Merge (AP)
This wouldn't quite be on the level of XM and Sirius, since there truly are no other satellite radio firms, but word is that TD Ameritrade and E-trade have been talking about a merger for several weeks. For the most part, these two services just sort of blend together in our mind, so we think it's a good idea. Plus, they spend a ridiculous amount on advertising -- most of it very lame -- that they could probably cut back on in the event of a tie-up. There would still be competition like Schwab and, er, ScottTrade, but this would certainly represent significant consolidation.
Google Aims to Make YouTube Profitable With Ads (YouTube)
After spending $1.6 billion on it, we can see why Google would want to figure out a way to monetize YouTube. Sure, it gets a trickle of revenue here and there, but the big cash hasn't been forthcoming. Today the company has announced plans to place advertising on some content. It should be pretty familiar to anyone that's, say, ever watched an episode of Top Chef and noticed an ad on the bottom part of the screen for that dumb looking show about Paula Abdul. Except in YouTube's case, you can click on that little ad and watch a full video ad right away. Not sure who'll click, but if they make them compelling, perhaps it'll make a few bucks.
Toll Brothers earnings plunge (CNNMoney)
Just like at every other homebuilder, earnings at Toll Brothers plunged in its recent quarter, for all of the usual reasons. However, the company still managed to turn a profit, which is no small accomplishment in this market. Back during the boom, when people used to discuss what might happen in a housing shakeout, Toll Brothers was always noted as a possible survivor, because they made houses for rich people (you know, golf course McMansions and hipster Williamsburg high rises). And of course, Rich people can always get a loan (well, except for Jim Cramer, who insists that he couldn't).
Bloomberg says won't run for president (Reuters)
Just in case you missed it, it would appear that Mayor Bloomberg will be finishing out the rest of his term. HIzzoner will remain Hizzoner and not Hizmajesty, or whatever honorific they use for the Presidency these days. If you think that news effects Wall Street, then that's why we mentioned it.

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