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Opening Bell: 1.9.08

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Countrywide Sees Loan Funding Drop As Delinquencies Rise (WSJ)
After taking it on the chin yesterday, amid rumors of its impending demise, Countrywide came out with December numbers this morning that are pretty bad, but maybe just 'mixed' enough to not be a total disaster. The stock is actually spiking back up this morning on news that loan fundings in December were up a tick since November. Assuming the company has no interest in finding itself in bankruptcy court, the next stop could be Abu Dhabi or China. One analyst pegs the immediate capital needed at $4 billion. (By the way. Hopefully you appreciate the picture on the left. Figured you needed a break from Angelo Mazilo's rather intense visage).
Poorer countries to offset US slowdown
Lift up your head. Sure, the NASDAQ hasn't had an up day all year. Sure, there's nobody who doesn't think we're about to go into a prolonged bear market/recession. But think globally, because 'poorer' countries will offset our
slowdown. That's at least according to the World Bank. Granted, global growth will moderate somewhat, to 3.3 percent from 3.6 percent in 07. And it's entirely possible that the US won't contribute to that at all. But up is up.
Microsoft Buys Fast, Plays Catch-Up (BusinessWeek)
BusinessWeek asks whether Microsoft's purchase of Scandinavian search firm, announced yesterday, will help it close the gap with Google. Answer: doubtful. That's because FAST, you see, is primarily into corporate search. Locating that document you need for the big meeting. It's not about helping you find your favorite Dealbreaker reference or about helping us find an old article for an obscure reference. On the corporate search front, Google is a player, but it's sort of a bit player, not nearly as dominant as it is on the consumer web. Lots of other no-names in the space, as well as big enterprise software makers, like SAP and Oracle.
New Hampshire Hillary Clinton's surprise win (Economist)
Ok, so we, along with everyone else thought that Obama was going to win last night. Really, we were pretty surprised. But, let's talk a moment to revisit what we said yesterday morning right here on the Opening Bell: "Barack Obama, his contracts are trading at $.935 on the dollar meaning there's very little to gain by picking him. Sort of like picking up pennies in front of a steamroller at this point." Steamrolled! Exactly what happened. We told you it was a needless risk to take. Now this is where we're pissed. We were totally going to pick up some Hillary contracts at about 7:30 last night on intrade, when they were trading at $.02 on the dollar. That was just too low. That would've yielded us a 50x gain, on what would've been a $50 bet. But thanks to anti-gambling laws, our money is still in stocks. ugh. Thanks a lot!

Confusing Cause & Effect: Elections and Markets (Big Picture)
Ok, here's a more important piece on politics. Barry Ritholtz discusses the nonsense that market moves are based on politics and that there's nothing wrong with the economy (he's looking at you Kudlow), but that the market is just freaked out about the possibility of a liberal Democrat taking office (again, Kudlow). Ritholtz gets it right: "Markets are not skittish because the incumbent party is in trouble - that’s getting it ass-backwards, and confusing cause for effect. When the ruling party is in re-election trouble, its because the future discounting mechanism of the markets is incorporating a slowing economy into its pricing."
F.T.C. Asks if Carbon-Offset Money Is Well Spent (NYT)
The FTC probably has better things to spend its time on, but this is still important in a sense: what's the deal with carbon offsets? Everyone from Al Gore to John Edwards to Ellen (we assume) uses them to reduce their emissions/guilt, but does the money accomplish anything. In a former life, we actually did some research into this question, so we know it's a bit trickier than companies would have you believe. So far, it's just preliminary stuff they're looking into.
AT&T Feels Pinch Of Slowing Economy (WSJ)
We were listening to the conf. Q&A when AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that non-paid disconnects were really starting to creep up in the home broadband market. You could almost here the clattering of Blackberries, as folks on the inside sent the "sell, sell, sell" messages to traders on the outside. What was really crazy about it was how flip he was. He didn't really seem disoncerted. Just a matter of fact "yup, the economy is definitely taking its toll."
Markets Tumble Into Correction (WSJ)
Bad news for bulls: the market is down. Good news for everyone: the markets are now correcter.
Wall Street Tips to Higher Open (AP)
Yeah, that'll last.