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Opening Bell: 4.23.08

Ambac Financial Group, Inc. Announces First Quarter Net Loss of $1,660.3 Million
For the quarter, Ambac showed a loss of $1.6 billion or $11.69 per share. Seeing as the stock only trades at around $6 per share, then the company sports an PE ratio of -.50, which is actually kind of impressive. Last year, for a little perspective, the company earned $2 bucks. Then again, last year they were trading close to $90, so the stock's gotten a little cheaper to reflect the new situation (duh). From the release: "As previously reported, Ambac has written very little business since late 2007 as fixed income investors awaited the results of rating agency reviews and resultant actions. In the U.S. municipal market issuance was down 22% quarter on quarter.
Apple Buys Chip Designer (Forbes)
A bit of a shocker: Apple, which has basically never bought anyone, has bought out a boutique chip designer called PA Semi, which could conceivably make chips for its various devices, like the iPhone. The company confirmed the purchase to Forbes in response to a query. Apple's got a massive, presque-Microsoft-like cash horde that it's built up, and though it's still growing fast, there's some growing pressure on them to do something with it. This hardly makes a dent in the pile, but it's something.
Yahoo’s first quarter good; Not good enough for a higher Microsoft bid; Yang wants more (Between the Lines)
That pretty much sums up last night Yahoo numbers. The company managed to beat expectations (though really, they just hit the "whisper" number), and it guided up a little bit. But not so much that it's obvious that Microsoft must now raise its bid. They might raise their bid, just to get the deal done and be done with it all. But hard to say that Yahoo conclusively proved its worth beyond $31 per share. Note that Microsoft releases results tomorrow, and technically, its three week deadline ends Saturday. So expect some action.
Clinton Defeats Obama in Pennsylvania, Vows to March On (Foxnews)
The long national nightmare goes on.
SEC Rebuffs Lawmakers Over Bear (WSJ)
If you think about it, Congressmen are the real royalty in this country. Sure, Presidents have too much power and that's a problem. But you never see Presidents just arbitrarily demand documents (they probably do it in private...) or demand thta someone sit in front of them and answer questions on live TV. Imagine if Bush brought up the CEO of some organization that he didn't like, got the cameras rolling and then just badgered him for three hours. It'd be an outrage. So good to see the SEC standing up to a congressional demand, denying requests for certain documents on Bear. We're ready to chip in for the SEC legal defense fund just for once.

Surging Energy Costs Take a Big Toll on Airline Earnings (NYT)
What a day yesterday for United. We were sort of distracted most of the day and didn't get a chance to check things out until the evening. But man, that is rough. This oil thing is killing 'em.
Microsoft Dreams of a Live Mesh (GigaOM)
Microsoft is getting a lot of attention for some new initiative that has something to do with internet-based software, as opposed to software on the desktop. You can read the above piece for some details. See also here for some more. Not that it's our specialty (no, really, it isn't) but we think it'll be tough for Microsoft to put out something that's really a game changer, given the risk it runs of cannibalizing its own business. But, they've gotta try something.
Is David Beckham’s Deal Really Worth $250 Million? (Number's Guy)
Carl Bialik, our guy, punctures some of the hype around David Beckham's supposed $250 million contract that's been so hyped this week. Basically, the $250 million is just an estimate, a projection, while the actual guaranteed numbers seem to be far below that. C'mon, $250 million for an American soccer player. No way.