Opening Bell: 12.18.07

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Fed to Unveil Home Mortgage Plan (AP)
A plan to protect borrowers from "shady" lenders is actually a clever way of describing a "plan" to "protect" "shady" lenders from themselves, since folks with cash to lend can't help but lend to "shady" borrowers. Among the proposals: "barring or limiting loans that do not require proof of a borrower's income." That's probably wise not to lend to people that can't present proof of income (though we can think of exceptions), but it still reads like a lender-protection scheme, as opposed to something benefiting borrowers.
Stock Futures Up Ahead of Goldman Earns (AP)
We can imagine stocks literally being up ahead of Goldman Earnings, but we can't imagine stocks actually rallying because of (expected) strong Goldman earnings. Isn't the whole Goldman investment thesis based on the idea that they've been able to profit when others lost their heads? If so, why would you buy other stocks based on (expected0 good news at Goldman. Plumb makes no sense.
Amid Strike, 2 NBC Hosts Will Return to the Air (NYT)
You could probably make the argument that the late-night guys are the only TV people miss. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but only so much. Throw in that show with Charlie Scheen, and you've got 90 percent of the reason people watch TV. So now Leno & O'brien are coming back, and Letterman will be back soon. So that just leaves Stewart and Colbert. They'll probably hold out longer, since they've got a lot of politicially-attuned fans, and they don't want to look like picket-line crossers. But clearly, the return of the NBC guys isn't good for the writers.
Money Market Rates Tumble as ECB Injects Record $500 Billion (Bloomberg)
Supply and demand, works every time.

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Apple Meets with DoCoMo, Softbank On Launching iPhone in Japan (WSJ)
Steve Jobs is talking with the heads of major Japanese wireless concerns about plans to sell the iPhone in the country. Here's the thing though: every phone we've seen from Japan is way cooler than the iPhone. Not to knock the iPhone. Great little gadget that thing. But as far as we can tell, Japanese phones are light years ahead. Ultimately, someone will pick it up there. But it seems doubtful that Apple will get the very friendly terms it's been getting from its existing carriers.
Housing Starts in U.S. Probably Fell to 14-Year Low in November (Bloomberg)
As long as you have man power, land and lumber, it probably makes some sense to build houses, but still, we're a little surprised that they're building any houses these days. Yes, housing starts dropped to a 14-year low, but that's still 1.1 million houses. Seems like a lot when there's already plenty of spare inventory lying around. In other words, seems like we may not be near the bottom of the housing starts number.
Bond instability points to Korea’s own credit squeeze (FT Alphaville)
There's a brewing credit crunch in Korea, and it's not just because banks there have exposure to US subprime. Rather there is actually a shortage of capital and an overabundance of demand from borrowers. As it should be when there's a credit crunch. Meanwhile, says the IHT, the upper-end market for housing in the country has come to a screeching halt. Said one real estate broker: "The whole real estate market is frozen."

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