Opening Bell: 1.15.08

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Citigroup Swings to a Loss, Cuts Quarterly Dividend (WSJ)
Today's the day we've all been waiting for. Citigroup posted a cool $9.83 billion net loss for the quarter and drumroll... slashed its dividend, surprising absolutely nobody, except maybe that one analyst. And yes, it just so happens that they've announced new funding; $12.5 billion worth, including $6.8 billion from Singapore. As usual, they time these things so that they're never just talking about losses without talking about infusions at the same time. The rest of the money came from various sources, including the Prince and the foundation of Sandy Weill.
Merrill Gets $6.6 Billion Infusion (WSJ)
Meanwhile, Merill. The other one. The company will issues $6.6 billion in preferred stock, with cash coming from Kuwait and Japanese i-bank Mizuho. With its other backers, including Temasek, Merrill has now brought on board $12.8 billion over the last few months.
Europe May Ban Imports of Some Biofuel Crops (NYT)
The EU may ban the imports of certain types of biofuel crops if they're deemed to be an environmental hazard. At first you might hear this and go "ah, Europe." But even if banning the crops' import is not the best policy decision, their thinking is not totally absurd. It's silly to talk about "green" energy if it's not even green. The most obvious example of this is carbon offsets. Sure, you can (theoretically) plant a tree and cancel out the effects of your car. But if planting the tree causes damage, soil erosion, biodiversity elimination, than you've just moved the problem.
Why Were The Forecasts So Bad?? (Dr. Joe Sobel)
So it was supposed to be a mad snow yesterday, and, who knows, there might've been a lot of natural gas traders ready to employ their favorite snow day strategy. But alas, the snow never came. We were happy about it, but some people were probably disappointed by that. So why were the forecasts so off? Well, obviously weather is pretty complex and chaotic -- everyone knows that. But as AccuWeather's Dr. Joe Sobel explains on his must-read blog, a slightly rainy day and a heavy snow day can have some very similar characteristics right before they happen. Maybe there's a deeper lesson there.


In Europe, Microsoft Again Faces Inquiries (NYT)
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer could be forgiven for feeling like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day, with Neelie Kroes playing the role of the annoying insurance salesman that he keeps having to punch in the face each day. Once again: The EU is looking into some anti-trust stuff at the company relating to Office and its browser. The latter issue, the browser, was brought by competing browser maker Opera a couple of months ago.
Bo Jackson an investor in proposed Burr Ridge bank (Tribune) (via Dealbook)
Dual sports star Bo Jackson -- who is even today legendary among the 8-10 year old demographic -- is on the board of a new bank. It doesn't look terribly exciting. The Burr Ridge Bank & Trust filed with Illinois regulators for permission to operate, and it plans on targeting small-to-medium-sized businesses. Still, Bo! A friend of ours once saw him at a restaurant wearing a feather on his earing. That's tough.
Programmable Thermostat Regulations in California: Big Brother or Control Freaks? (Knowledge Problem)
Lynne Kiesling takes a look at a new thing in California where they want to regulate your thermostate. We've been hearing about this lately, but haven't really paid much attention to it yet. But Kiesling would be the one to listen to, since she's a level-headed economist and has a longstanding interest in energy policy and smart buildings, so this is her wheelhouse. Do check it out.
Apple's Jobs May Put Spotlight on Slim Mac Laptop at Macworld (Bloomberg)
Today's the day, when Apple traders find out if Steve Jobs can fail to dissappoint them once again. Last year, it was iPhone shock and awe, which pretty much lived up to the hype. This year they're talking thinner Mac laptops. Somehow doesn't sound as exciting. We'll see.

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