Opening Bell: 8.24.07

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Gap's top-to-bottom makeover helps boost 2Q profit 19 percent (AP)
Every once in a while, we put on our "retail chain analyst" cap and walk into stores, just to get a feel for how they're doing. About 2 months ago, we stopped in the Gap, in part to see how busy it was, in part to see whether they had any wearable shorts, and in part just to see what their overall style was these days. It was really a jaw dropping experience, as we were wholly unprepared for the staggering lack of style or fashion on display. We had no idea people were still selling cargo pants these days, or button down shirts with weird prints over the pocket. The only way we could describe the style was "nerdy engineering student who thinks he's cool a la 1998". So yes, we're quite shocked that the company has apparently boosted its bottom line for the first time in forever. We were sure they were on a one way street to oblivion.
Whole Foods May Complete Purchase After Stay Denied (Bloomberg)
...And once again the FTC gets slapped down. Whole Foods can once again proceed with plans to buy out
Wild Oats.
Fate of Home Depot Unit Sale Up in Air (AP)
We're not sure that it really qualifies as "news" that a pending deal might not go through. If anything, the opposite would be far more worthy of attention. Nonetheless, concerns continue to mount that Home Depot might not be able to dump its HD supply business, or if it does, it may need to lower the price tag.
Long Island Scrapping Ocean Wind Park (AP)
It's not a sentiment that's widely held, but we've always found wind farms, with their graceful turbines sucking energy out of the sky, to be things of beauty. In an ideal world, every windy mountain top would have three or four up there, passively collecting otherwise wasted kinetic energy. That being said, there's no point in making these investments if they're not cost effective, and apparently more areas are starting to question the benefit-- even in today's energy market, which is saying something. Long Island had been prepping an ocean based farm (cool, though we prefer mountains, as we said), but the utility has decided to drop plans, citing cost. A similar ocean-based project was recently dropped in Texas.

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Smithfield Net Doubles on Meat Sales; Hormel Falls (Bloomberg)
Unless you've been living in a cave, you know all about the wild action in the meat industry these days. Steakhouse stocks have been getting hit hard, in part due to rising meat prices and a shortage of choice cuts. Even the venerable Peter Luger has had to add different cuts to its menu, citing a shortage of its signature porterhouse. Many, including us, are blaming ethanol. Among the meat pure-plays, it's a mixed picture. Hormel, a maker of many "finished goods", like Spam, is hurting in this market. On the other hand, Smithfield Farms is on the right side of the price increases, as its net doubled from last year. Perhaps it's time for a meat-based hedge fund whose assumption is that the industry will normalize, and that the performance of the various players will converge.
Bank of China Reports Heavy Exposure to Subprime Crisis (NYT)
Throughout the past several years, China has been a major buyer of US mortgages, and yet for some time, there's been this thinking that maybe they'd be immune to the whole mortgage bust up. The Chinese stock market is consistently the one left standing as the rest of Asia gets battered overnight. Finally, it looks like folks are coming clean, as the Bank of China is admitting to significant subprime exposure, news that buffeted the company's shares. And it's pretty safe to assume that the BoC isn't the only one in this mess, so finally the wretched masses of the world are pulling China's august financial institutions down to their level.
In Britain and U.S., Urgent Steps to Change Mortgage Systems (NYT)
Throughout the housing boom and bust, we've been told to lock across the Atlantic, to see how the British managed their cycle, which had many similarities to ours. So that's exactly what the Times does today, looking at the effects of mass foreclosures in the UK, as rising interest rates have made it difficult for many to keep up with their payments. That being said, it's Friday, so we understand if you want to pass on yet another mortgage related story.
10 Candidates for Extreme Makeover, Ticker-Edition (GigaOM)
So Sun Microsystems announced that it's changing its ticker from SUNW to JAVA, which is a little dorky, but whatever, it's branding. From our perspective, we like creative tickers, or at least tickers that aren't pure contractions of the company's name. Om Malik has a few suggestions for changes, including News Corp (NWS to TOM) and Viacom (VIA to SUX). Got any suggestions? Put 'em in the comments.

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