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Opening Bell: 1.17.08

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Merrill Results Send Futures Lower (
This is why they keep likening investing in the financials like catching a falling knife. There are so many of these big writedown reports yet to come ( we assume) that it's really hard to get excited about the sector. The details: Merrill lost $9.8 billion on a $14 billion writedown, which was obviously its biggest loss of all time. Of course, ex-writedown, they would've made some serious money, so don't forget that! Merill is down pre-market, as is the broader market. The announcement is here.
Bernanke Likely to Support Stimulus Effort (WSJ)
Economics observers have been forecasting a recession for a while now. It varies though. Some saw clear signs early in the summer, while others really only got on board late last year. And then there are our politicians, who are real finger-in-the-wind types and now they're all talking stimulus. But none were talking stimulus, say, 1 week ago. The S-word has really spiked in usage, basically since the beginning of this week. We tend to fall into the let there be pain camp, but if the government were going to do anything, it might've acted earlier. Also, people should lay off Bernanke. We'll just leave that at that.
When 3rd Place on the Rich List Just Isn’t Enough (NYT)
NYT profiles casino mogul Sheldon Anderson, No. 3 on the list of richest Americans. It notes that a lot of falks haven't heard of the man. Don't worry Shel, we have.

Airline mergers (Ideoblog)
Every time there's talk of an airline merger, we're skeptical. We'll believe 'em when we see 'em, but even then, we'll be skeptical. Seriously. Larry Ribstein provides some links to other skeptics.
Auto-Summarizing The Education of Ben Bernanke (Infectious Greed)
Lots of folks will be talking about the NYT Magazine's profile of Ben Bernanke, see here. It's written by Roger Lowensteing, so, you know, expect some high-octane writing there. We're sure it's good, but we're also sure it's long, which is a problem. Thankfully, Paul Kedrosky has snipped it down to four relevant paras. And now we can say we've read it.
Private Equity Council Says PE Is a Jobs-Creating Machine (Deal Journal)
Now you have to consider the source on this, but the Private Equity Council claims that companies bought by PE firms end up upping their staffing levels, contrary to the stereotype about PE firms destroying jobs. We'll have to delver further into detail at another time. Unfortunately Deal Journal's post mainly just repeats the assertions made by the group, though we're sure there are holes to be poked.