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Opening Bell: 11.13.07

Wal-Mart Stores 3Q Profit Up 8 Percent (AP)
It looks like Wal-Mart is starting to reap the fruits of its international expansion. Overseas, you see, it's a hip American brand, just like Nike or Coke. Actually, not really. But the company did post a solid quarter, which is one major bullet that was just dodged. If they'd reported numbers in the tank, you could pretty much cancel the holidays. Not that it can singlehandedly lift what's crumbling around them... but, gotta start somewhere. Meanwhile, even the NYT takes a positive look at the behemoth from Bentonville, declaring that its health plan is now "less stingy" than it used to be. The Times notes that Wal-Mart even makes it easier than Target does for employees to get on health insurance, which would be quite shocking to all of the Target lover/Wal-Mart haters out there.
Home Depot's Net Falls 27% Amid Weak Housing Market (WSJ)
No big shocker here... Home Depot reported punk results for its latest quarter and sees more pain ahead. While earnings hit expectations, revenue came on the lite side ($18.96 billion vs. $19.39 billion), so there'll probably be some ugliness today on that. The real horror though, is that the company may pare back on its stock buybacks, which will probably cause all kinds of fits and spasms on Wall St., where the stock buyback is regarded as part of the trinity. Not sure what the equivalent of the Son and Holy Ghost are.
BHP Presses Rio Tinto for Talks (WSJ)
The Journal runs down where things stand on BHP's bid for Rio Tinto. The crazy thing about all this is that BHP CEO Marius Kloppers has been in office for like a month and a half. You'd think he'd still be filling out his health insurance forms or engaging in some sort of 100-day review. Nope. Dude just gets into office and launches a massive takeover for a rival. Did he hint to the company that he might do this? Was this always part of the plan, or did he just want to show who's boss right off the bat. Either way, great drama.
CBS News Writers to Vote on Allowing a Strike Over Pay (AP)
It seems that one-by-one, the old guard of traditional media and entertainment going out of their way to shoot themselves in the foot. First it's the screenwriters and the Hollywood bosses.... next Broadway, and soon perhaps the actors themselves. Now there's news the news writers may do the same. Not being fans of the Daily Show, Leno or Broadway, we still haven't noticed anything, and we can guarantee that we wouldn't notice if the CBS newswriters went on strike. There has been some chatter about a blogger strike, in solidarity, but somehow we're not worried about that one.

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Constellation plans to buy Fortune's wine business
Yesterday, Constellation announced the acquisition of Fortune Brands' wine business, bringing major consolidation among the big sellers of fermented grape juice. We're not sure what the rationale is, but we're guessing that it will allow Constellation to offer all kinds of new blends that it couldn't have by mixing its own wine with Fortune's. Also worth noting that there have been a few big beer mergers lately, meaning the whole alcohol space has been shrinking significantly.
Economic Growth Returns in Japan (NYT)
Economic growth is back in Japan... but there's still not that much growth. The latest quarter grew .6 percent, growth, yes, but it's understandable why the BOJ is hesitant to raise interest rates. Oh by the way, that's us in 5/10 years, so we better pay attention and learn up while we can.
Does the U.S. Lead in Life Expectancy? (The Number's Guy)
Opening Bell favorite Carl Bialik looks at some recent research on life expectancy. The research itself is provocative, as it attempts to debunk some cw about poor US life expectancy... but of course Bialik manages to punch some holes into it. Worthwhile read if you get a spare five minutes today.
Icahn Hedge Funds Post Loss, First Since Inception (Bloomberg)
And here we thought Carl Icahn was Mr. Midas. Guess not. The mans' hedge fund posted its first quarterly loss in three years, mainly due to bad results at Lear and WCI Communities Inc. Guess you have to expect that when you take positions in companies, whose management you deam to be incompetent, you're going to take some losses every once in a while.