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Opening Bell: 2.5.2008

Sugar Supply Signals Bear Market as UBS Sees 18% Drop (Bloomberg)
The increasing cost of calories has prompted an "end of cheap food" meme. We think there might even a book about it, though we've been wondering if the rising price of sugar and corn is basically an anti-obesity market mechanism. You can't prove that it's not, is all we'll say. Even if it's not direct, it's still probably a good thing that sugar has become more expensive. But peak sugar may be on its way out, say analysts. For one thing, sugar inventories are very high. Another: oil prices are edging down, reducing the demand for sugar-based ethanol. And people are waking up to the fact that sugar should be classified as a deadly hard drug. Just kidding about that last fact.
Actively Traded ETFs: A Step Closer to Reality (WSJ)
Given the fall from grace that mutual funds have seen and the rise of index funds and ETFs, what purpose do actively traded ETFs have? Isn't the whole point that retail investors don't want to pay fees to a manager, only to see their holding underperform the market, anymore? This is a serious question. We thought the this article might address some of the obvious issues here, but really it only brushes on them, acknowledging that higher costs and taxes might be an issue. But as far as well can tell, it's the issue.
Presidential Nominees (Intrade)
We mentioned these numbers yesterday, but figured we'd link back today, since it's the big day. Still neck and neck on the Dem side $.53 vs. $.47, and still a blowout on the other side. We still think the private equity guy might be a good value, especially if you can find someone to lend you 4/5ths of the upfront capital to buy your contracts. If you win, you'd be looking at 50x winner. As Eliezer Yudkowsky points out, if you don't trade on your beliefs, then you truly don't believe them, otherwise you're an idiot who doesn't believe in free money. Truer words... truer words.
Europe’s Central Banker Engineers His Economics (NYT)
We mentioned yesterday our sense that the ECB saw things differently than our Fed, or at least appeared to have a meaningfully different mandate. This article goes into things a little more, discussing its view that inflation is the real culprit and that its job is not to fight the economic tides. We sort of get the impression that in the US, there are a lot of folks resenting the fact that the ECB isn't "playing along". It's like they're denying the economic realities we see here... or maybe they just don't see them for a reason. And since they're not playing along with the rate cut game, we can't cut without putting more unbalanced pressure on the dollar.

Silicon Valley after a Microsoft/Yahoo merger: a contrarian view (Marc Andreesen)
No doubt you've heard the rumbling about the fact that a potential Microsoft-Yahoo tie-up would result in one fewer acquirer of young tech companies. Anyway, Marc Andreesen, who knows a thing or two about this stuff, offers his argument why this fear is way overblown. Basically: Neither Microsoft or Yahoo have been huge acquirers, and there are still plenty of buying companies out there left to do deals.
The Unsavory Cost of Capping Food Prices (WSJ)
Speaking of the end of cheap food, some governments are doing something about it. Taking it into their own hands.
Annual Report, R.I.P. (The American)
This is depressing: Sarbanes-Oxley killed the annual report. We had no idea. Sure, we hadn't seen a glossy, impeccably-designed annual report in our mailbox in a long time, but we assumed they were out there. Apparently they're not. Can you, our readers, back this up? This article argues that post SarbOx, annual reports are just plain-packaged 10ks on ugly paper. And of course, cost cutting is part of it too. With most people, reasonably, getting their company info online, either at a company's site or the SEC, it makes sense not too invest too much into the paper copy. Still, a little sad, though we wonder if this article is exaggerating just a tad. We're not sure.
Shiller: "Historic Housing Bust" (Big Picture)
Hmm, apparently Robert Shiller thinks home values are coming to decline big time. Very surprising call.