Opening Bell: 2.7.08

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Dubai fund buys historic London site from Queen (AFP)
This feels like one of those things that occurs nearing some peak of something. We're not saying that this is a sign of anything right now. Just that in the past, stories about some government buying a major piece of historic real estate would in retrospect be ascribed as a significant indicator. Again, just trying to make a point of how we read history. A fund in Dubai is spending 255 million dollars on a property owned by the Queen that sounds to be marginally historic. Sounds like it's probably a reasonable price. But, if the Dubai economy collapses tomorrow, watch for people to point to this as a key moment, at some point down the road.
Drug Ads Raise Questions for Heart Pioneer (NYT)
There's something a little unsettling about the Pfizer Lipitor ad featuring Dr. Jarvik, the first inventor of the artificial heart. Obviously Jarvik's demeanor is a little unusual. And it's not totally comfortable to hear someone talk so earnestly, for so long about a pill. But the suggestion that somehow the commercial is unethical, or wrong in some way, is a little weird. Like, I'd rather hear hist take on it, as a man who clearly knows the heart, that some yahoo reading a script. If we had to guess though, the commercials are probably done for. Since there's so little tolerance for legal or PR risk these days in that industry.
Wal-Mart Will Expand In-Store Medical Clinics (NYT)
Maybe the minute clinic concept isn't dead after all. A couple weeks ago, there were reports about walk-in health clinics shuttering inside Wal-Marts. But perhaps it was just that one company having the trouble, and not something bigger having to do with the rest of the industry. Because now the retailer is making its own push into the health game, partnering with hospitales to put more such clinics in stores. The idea of cheap, commodity health care for the simple things in life (soar throat, earache, etc.) makes a lot of sense to us, so it'd be cool if the concept worked out.
Senate Stimulus Bill Fails to Advance (WSJ)
Seriously, this is why we love to see gridlock in Washington. Good things only happen when the parties are at each others' throats.


Never Stand in Line Again? (Freakonomics)
Nothing gals us more than wasting time, because it's pure loss. When we waste money, at least we know someone else is getting it. Time, unfortunately, doesn't circulate the same way. There's no velocity of time. Anyway, we love the idea of eliminating lines using technology, but we're skeptical. Dubner at Freakonomics mentions a new startup developing a technology that will eliminate lines just by getting people to show up at a designated time. It's not going to work. People will start signing up to show up at a place, but then they'll not show up. Or they'll show up late. Or the organization letting people in or selling tickets won't find things go as smoothly as planned and that will create bottlenecks. Lines are dumb, and they're a market failure, but a different approach is needed.
An Interesting Theory on Microsoft-Yahoo (TOTM)
Theory: Even if Microsoft fails to acquire Yahoo on some sort of anti-trust grounds (which is probably a dubious proposition), it will serve the purpose of getting regulators to focus more on this area, thus hurting Google. Just a theory.
Economists Raise the Odds of a Recession to 49% (WSJ)
Great news: we're less likely to have a recession than we are to have one. That's quite a relief, we have to say. We were worried when Cisco said last night that orders were coming soft in January that it was a bad sign, but nope, the majority sentiment is that we're not going into a recession. Granted it's a slim majority, 51 percent, but that's the view. Put it this way, if we had a coin that landed on heads 51 percent of the time, and we kept flipping coins for $1 each, we'd crush you before too long. Oh, but despite this optimistic view among polled economist, Bernanke is getting low marks for his early term in office. His "grade" has dropped below 80 for the first time, which means he's now making a 'C'.
2008 Democratic Presidential Nominee (Intrade)
Interesting the way the numbers move on perception. As Super Tuesday started to wind down, and it became obvious that HRC won the big states, her numbers shot up to around $.60. But then the tilt came later on on Wednesday, when the Obama camp realized it had won more delegates, more states, and perhaps more popular votes. By any measure, Obama won the night and without any change in results, Hillary cratered to around $.45, from which she has since recovered. Also not helping: reports that her campaign is out of money, an ominous sign given that this will now likely drag into April. Meanwhile, get read for a string of caucus and other states likely to be favorable to Obama. Will be interesting to see how they effect prices.

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