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Opening Bell: 2.19.08

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Wal-Mart Reports Record Fourth Quarter Sales and Earnings
Topic A for today. Do consumers have any gas left in the tank? Or have they gone into hiding, hording their gold bullion for a new, post-apocalyptic world: Total revenue was up 8.3 percent, though net income crept up just 3.8 percent. And the line everyone will focus on: "Customers were more cautious in their spending in January. In a volatile economy, I believe we are well positioned to succeed. We will continue to strengthen our price leadership around the world."
POSCO, Vale agree 65 pct iron ore price hike (Reuters)
It's sort of understandable that the base metals business is booming and consolidating. Posco has become the latest steelmaker to relent to a whopping 65 percent price increase for the iron ore it buys, following a similar announcement from Nippon Steel. It's bad enough that they have to pay such high prices, but then they have to publicly admit it too.
Credit Suisse Writedowns to Cut Profit by $1 Billion (Bloomberg)
More carnage, this time another $1 billion from Credit Suisse. Why? Turned out they mis-priced some bonds. That's it, just a little mis-pricing of risk. Sort of like the guy at the grocery store punching a stamp on an item had it set on the wrong number. Just gotta fix that and move on.
Castro Resigns as President, Cuban Commander-in-Chief (Bloomberg)
FInally, a new era of capitalism can emerge at our neighbor to the south. Of course, Fidel hasn't been doing much since he got sick a couple years ago, so now they're just dotting the i's.
Dem Pres Primaries (Intrade)
It's Tuesday, which means it's election day, which means a fresh batch of states from our dear Intrade. Wisconsin: Obama $.83; Hawaii: Obama $.96. So there you have it. Solid victories expected in both, with little effect seen by the latest "plagiarism" charges. In fact, the headline numbers about winning the nomination haven't changed at all, even amidst the media-created Hillary boomlet of the last day.

Delta Air Lines Said to Be Near a Northwest Deal (NYT)
Will you force us to say once again how we feel about airline mergers? Good. Appreciate it. But really, ARS has the details on emergency meetings at Delta and Northwest to discuss a merger. As he notes, a deal would end months (though more like years and years) of speculation. The merger would create the world's largest airline. Very impressive.
Silicon Valley Continues On Economic Comeback (WSJ)
Looks like they're coming out of this whole .com bust pretty good. At least for now. New jobs, higher incomes, what could be the problem?
Take It with a Grain of Salt (American)
Of all of the health causes out there, the campaign against sodium always seemed like the most dubious, just ahead of the campaign against fat and the campaign against cholesterol. Anywah, a nice look from The American at this movement.