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Opening Bell: 1.11.07

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Bank of America Agrees to Purchase Countrywide Financial Corp.
The rumors are true. Expect a full day of discussion on this one: "The purchase will make Bank of America the nation's largest mortgage lender and loan servicer. This is an important advancement in the company's desire to help customers and clients meet all of their financial needs. A mortgage is one of the key foundations of many customer relationships. Countrywide will benefit from the stability of being part of the largest and one of the most financially strong financial institutions in the United States."
Countrywide Gets Rescue Deal (WSJ)
Some analysis from WSJ. Note that the sale price is actually below yesterday's overshoot close. One of those times when the "buy the rumor, sell the news" maxim actually makes a lot of sense.
Giant Write-Down Is Seen for Merrill (NYT)
The Times steps out of its element and takes a stab at predicting Merrill's writedown, which they're pegging at a cool $15 billion. We'll see how they do. Remember when the NYT was all "Chinese products are unsafe" all the time. That was a weird rut they got into.
Conoco in Lead for Abu Dhabi Deal (WSJ)
Houston-based Conoco is said to be the front runner to develop a big natural gas field in Abu Dhabi. That's good. For once we're not going over their with hat in hand, begging for some pocket change. They might actually need a US company to provide a service them. That'll reverse the flow of dollars alright.
Odds of Recession Seen Rising (WSJ)
Some folks say we're already in a recession, but that's a pretty meaningless concepts, because there seem to be some wonky rules that define what is and what isn't technically a recession. All year, they've been polling economists asking them if they think we'll see a recession and the changing responses has been very predictable. A few months ago about a quarter of them said there would be one. Then that inched up to a third. Then that inched up again. Now they're at 42 percent. This is the same as last time. During the 2000 election, Al Gore used to tout the fact that only 1 in 50 economists saw a recession. The point is, economists don't seem like the greatest forecasters. Much better to asks the folks on the ground, or the managers who run businesses, who have a much better feel. Or just go with your gut.
China Money Supply Growth Slows as Central Bank Measures Bite (Bloomberg)
This is weird. There's some evidence that Chinese monetary policy is having something of a desired effect. Money supply growth actually tapered off a little in the latest month, which is something they've been pulling for for a long time. Whether that actually accomplishes the broader goal of establishing more stable, inflation-free growth... that remains to be seen.

Pound Is Brought Back to Earth (WSJ)
A lot gets made over the dollar's weakness, but it's not a lone. The pound has taken a drubbing and they're probably wishing they hadn't been so stuck up about joining the monetary union.
Japanese Shipbuilders Eye Merger (Forbes)
Sadly, we don't end up talking about shipbuilders enough around these parts. But word is that two largest Japanese firms JFE Holdings and IHI Corp. are in talks to combine. Apparently they're facing pressure from low-cost (that's got to be pretty relative) makers from South Korea and China.
The Big Switch Is a Good Thing (GigaOM)
The world of computing is changing rapidly, and it's likely that Wall St. will be the epicenter of change, given the mammoth budgets and infrastructural needs, as well as the need for speed. We've been meaning to pick up a copy of Nick Carr's "The Big Switch" for awhile now, though for some reason we haven't gotten around to it. It basically discusses the rise of utility computing -- data and processing power piped in over cables, just like electricity -- which is something he's been talking about for awhile. Anne Zelenka talks about it some more over at GigaOM.
The $2,500 Car (The American)
We've still got the $2500 car on the brain, and evidently others do too, which is nice to see. The American magazine wonders whether we're talking revolution here. Definitely worth a read if today is slow for you.