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Opening Bell: 1.2.08

Chinese Yuan Advances to Strongest Since End of Dollar Link (Bloomberg)
The Yuan doesn't operate on a purely free market, but then again, there aren't many currencies that do. Mainly it's that China is more direct about its goals. You don't have a situation whereby every politician claims to be committed to a 'weak Yuan' policy, and yet it goes up. Basically, they maintain a tight grip on the price, letting it rise incrementally over time and that's the deal. Anyway, a new high on the Yuan was made, and assuming things stay the same, we'll probably see more of these over the course of the year.
Best Bet for Next President: Prediction Markets (WSJ)
Justin Wolfers, the pro-sports betting economists popular with the Freakonomics set, is going to be doing a series of articles for the WSJ over the coming year on the role of prediction markets in understanding the Presidential election. Should be interesting, and it'll give us just a smidgen more of a hook to talk politics from time to time. We're actually pretty curious what he'll have to say. So far, we've been a bit underwhelmed by what we've seen on Intrade. Rarely do we see any indication of anticipatory power, but rather the numbers seem to move after the conventional wisdom of changes. Perhaps we're reading things wrong. We'd like to know.
Reinsurance Trial May Ask: What Did Buffett Know? (WSJ)
We had forgotten about this story. A much-anticipated trial of certain General Re executives is set to begin, and there's talk that shots will be taken at Mr. Buffett. The man had a great week in the press last week, as Berkshire Hathaway made several high profile moves, but the beginning of this case may bring him back down to earth a bit. Of course, he's not actually on trial. And ultimately, regardless of what he know/when he knew it, it's doubtful that his armor will take too much of a puncture.
For Celebrity Magazine, Pregnancy Is a Bonus (NYT)
We really can't get enough of the Jamie Lynn pregnancy story, and if we had to guess, we think it'll be a boon for the girl's career. That being said, the NYT offers a look into the world of checkbook journalism at the celebrity mags. OK! magazine won the right to talk about the story, but there's more to the competition than just a straight up bidding war.

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New ETFs Struggle to Gain Footing (WSJ)
We've been reading more and more about the advent of "actively managed" ETFs, the first of which are said to be hitting the market sometime in early '08. Forgive us for sounding naive, but, uhm, what's the point? Is this anything more than a way to repackage the ailing mutual fund model into the how new acronym? Is the only difference the fact that it'll change prices all day long, rather than just price at the market close? Seriously, we're not being obtuse hwere -- we just don't get it. Please enlighten us in the comments, and feel free to call us an idiot for being so ignortant. Beyond the new actively managed ETFs, there are a lot of questions facing the industry, as new ETF offerings often struggle for lack of capital and track record in tracking the underlying index.
The Winners From the Biggest M&A Year Evah (WSJ)
It's early 2008, AKA late 2007. Well, not really, but it's not too late to touch on the occasional end of 2007 roundup news. Deal Journal has a list of the big M&A winners from last year. Names include Goldman Sachs (duh), Sam Zell, online advertising companies and sovereign wealth funds.
Solar Power Could Supply 69% of US Electricity by 2050 (Research Recap)
A study says that 69 percent of US electricity could, theoretically, be supplied by solar in the year 2050. Jeez, most of us will be old/dead by then, which is sort of depressing. Energy independence: something to leave for the next generation. Anyway, the catch is that to achieve this balance, we'll need at least $420 billion in subsidies for solar by then. So if our grandkids are going to get a solar world, we'll also have to saddle them with a lot of costs. Maybe we can let them choose.
What's this Infatuation with Crime? (Zoli's Blog)
We were on a flight last night, on jetBlue as a matter of fact, and we were hoping to get some halfway decent political/business news between college bowl games. Fat chance. Fox News had is typical rubbish, as did CNN. MSNBC however insisted on doing more programming about prisons. What is up with that channel? They do so much programming about prisons it's absurd. We get it, jail sucks. Now show some news.
Kass: 20 Surprises for 2008 (
Even though it's the second day of 2008, it's not too late to make predictions about the new year. Just don't predict anything that came true yesterday already, cause that'd be cheating. Doug Kass offers his top 20 "surprises" for the new year. Among his "surprises": The Housing Depression of 2007 morphs into the Retail Spending Depression of 2008. Actually, we think there'll be a lot of talking heads on CNBC surprised if this doesn't happen.