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Opening Bell: 2.28.08

Sears Holdings Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2007 Results
Has it really been a whole quarter since the last time we talked about a rough earnings report from Sears. It must've been. Net income of $426 million was down significantly from $811 million in the year-ago period. The money line: "Our fourth quarter and full year results continued to be negatively impacted by the worsening economic conditions faced by both our customers and competitors, as well as increased markdowns taken to clear excess inventory."
Movie Revenue Dynamics (Art De Vany)
We linked to it earlier, but Going Private had a really beautiful rant about the whole hedge funds in Hollywood thing the other day. And in case you missed it, you should definitely check out this awesome chart put together by the NYT depicting 20 years of box office data. It's NSFW, but only in the sense that if you're like me, you could get lost playing with it for hours. And the above link is a further discussion, with a chart showing the whole randomness and chaos of the industry.
An unfortunate lack of clarity (Free Exchange)
The job of economic advisor to a Presidential candidate has to be a thankless one. Seriously. You sit them down, explain how stuff like free trade and lack of regulations is actually good in the long run, and the candidate nods all serious, like they really get it. Job done? Then the next day, you see them at the debate and their denouncing free trade, or if not denouncing, pretending to be seriously confused on the matter. How does the candidate look the advisor in the face after having ignored them so roundly in their previous meeting?
Pilots’ Battles Over Seniority Play Havoc With Airline Mergers (NYT)
We've been talking about this pilot seniority issue for awhile, and it's the chief reason we're always skeptical of airline merger rumors, even when the news media says that a deal will occur literally any second now. The NYT takes a good look at the issue of seniority, and explains how it really gets in the way. Megan McArdle argues that this is the fundamental issue with unions: it's not that they fight for higher wages, but that they create structural inefficiencies.

LinkedIn's latest updates take a few hints from Facebook (The Social)
Some folks say that Facebook is a good professional networking tool. Maybe, but as far as we're concerned, it's basically for kids. Anyway, the "serious", sex-less social networking site LinkedIn has done a redesign, and now it's got some stuff like status updates. So you can say "eating a sandwich" or "contemplating whether to cook fish tonight or order in an read Proust." Of course on Facebook, this sort of makes sense, since people spend hour after hour browsing the site LinkedIN? You sorta go there, approve something and leave.
Apple COO Cook Confirms Forecast For 10 Million iPhone Sales In 2008; Stock Jumps After Hours (TechTraderDaily)
All is right with the world, at least for now. Apple is still sticking by its forecast of 10 million iPhones sold in 2008. But man, if they just sell, 9,990,000 then watch out. Seriously, that will not go over well.
Trader Hits Jackpot in Oil, As Commodity Boom Roars On (WSJ)
One oil trader at Citi has taken home more than $250 million over the last five years, having correctly anticipated the macro-move in oil and bet real big. Not only did he out-earn the CEO in one year (apparently just one), but his unit called Phibro has been responsible for 10 percent of the bank's profits -- telling on multiple levels. Interesting note here on the bet he took: "In making it, Mr. Hall individually took on more risk than Citigroup typically permits some groups of traders to carry, according to a person familiar with the bank." Anyway, you certainly have some thoughts on the whole thing, so take it away.