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Opening Bell: 9.14.07

Warning Signs and Defining Economic Moments (NYT)
Stick this in your beige book: The proprietor of a diner in Oklahoma has noticed a drop off in drink orders (more people ordering water, less ordering Pepsi), which she says is always a harbinger of a recession. Interesting. Who needs all those economists, or hell, even the credit crunch? Just gimme a nice anecdotal statistic like that, and I'll sell my stocks today. Also, does anyone know whether burger eaters are adding two slices of bacon to their orders? We've heard that's a good indicator of economic strength. No, seriously.
BofA holds off on ATM fee hike in Chicago (Chicago Tribune)
Word came out yesterday that Bank of America was soon to up ATM fees for non members to $3, which is getting up there with casinos and cruises, though ultimately, come on, it's just three bucks. But, in a smart, though transparent, political move, the company is going to put off the hike at its Chicago ATMs, since it's pushing to buy Lasalle Bank, and it doesn't want to come off as a bad guy. Thing is, if it does go through, then they're going to be making a lot of layoffs. And layoffs + ATM hike would just be too much.
Ease Up on the Quants, Kids (Paul Kedrosky)
Paul Kedrosky makes a plea to lay off the quants -- stop making fun of them so much with your childish, schoolyard taunts that don't really appreciate the depth of the situation. Seriously, what he says makes a lot of sense, and to paint these guys as mindless sheeple doesn't really do justice do the depth of the situation.
China Raises Rates for Fifth Time to Cool Economy
Economic experts have been telling this to China for a long time: "if you want to get things under control, then you have to bump up interest rates by 27 basis points; we know it's painful, but you've gotta do it". So, for the fifth time this year, China is taking such a step, moving the one-year lending rate to 7.29% from 7.02%, which we think is right on the money. No moral hazard there.

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Japan's lunar "princess" shoots for the moon (Reuters)
It looks like Japan is going to be the first party to claim the $30 million, Google-sponsored Lunar X-Prize. Man, that was quick. Oh, they're not doing it for that? They're just shooting something at the moon for no good reason? Weird, sounds like a waste of money and scientific knowledge.
Alcatel-Lucent CEO to accelerate restructuring after warning again (MarketWatch)
They say there have never been plans to keep Patricia Russo on as the CEO of Alcatel-Lucent very long. A little while longer and then they'll probably bring in some Euro. Anyway, that's probably good, because at this pace, she's going to be as popular as Carly post-Compaq, which is to say not at all. And one sort of gets the impression that the company's woes are deeper than they were at HP, which is to say, you can't expect a rebound the day Russo goes out the door (which by the way looked more like bad luck on Fiorina's part, rather than something having to do with her sub, Hurd.) One saving grace, perhaps, is that both of these companies were in trouble pre-merger. So maybe there wasn't any expectation that the tie-up would solve any problems.
Internet Gambling Deserves a New Chance (BusinessWeek)
At BusinessWeek, they're debating relegalizing internet gambling (or legalizing it, depending on your perspective of past laws). Anyway, it's pretty depressing to read the tone of the debate, particularly, we have to say, the guy who's against legalizing it. He starts off with: "The U.S. government’s obligation to protect its citizens from a toxic, addictive product exceeds its responsibility to please the gnomes at the WTO." That's particularly funny, because that's his rejoinder to the guy calling current laws a new 'prohibition'. And where in your constitution does it say that the role of the government is to protect people from toxic, addictive products? At least he doesn't commit the slipper sloper fallacy in his argument... oh wait, he just calls it a cliff, not a slipper slope.
President Sees 'Enduring' Role For U.S. in Iraq (WSJ)
We're so confused. We thought the surge was working, and now Bush is saying we may begin troop withdrawals? What gives? It's going to be fun watching the Republican candidates all tailoring their position to this new line, as if they all had the same epiphany overnight, that it was time to scale back. Anyway, it comes as a real surprise, since nobody could've seen this coming. Oh wait, we did just last month.
Brazilian sugar and ethanol: slow to consolidate (Oligopoly Watch)
Oligopoly Watch looks at the state of the global sugar market, looking at Brazil in particular. That's great, but what we want to know is whether the new drama Cane, with Jimmy Smitts, is worth five minutes of our attention. Anyone seen it?