Opening Bell: 5.27.08

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Recession still likely in US, says Greenspan (FT)
So Greenspan says there's a better than 50 percent chance of a recession in the US. That's fine, the sage is certainly entitled to offer up his opinion to the Financial Times whenever he likes. Here's the question though: What's he doing about it? No, not in terms of stopping it, but in terms of profiting from it. Is he, for example, buying recession contracts on Intrade at $.40? He should be. Or is he just talking and advising and consulting and generally making more money by pontificating than by acting? Just asking.
Lost Opportunities Haunt Final Days of Bear Stearns (WSJ)
This is kind of the equivalent of the "Blog-Post Confidential" story in the NYT Magazine this weekend, except its Tuesday morning in the WSJ and its about Bear Stearns. But it's sure to get a lot of buzz, even if it is, in a sense, "history". The basic premise: Bear Stearns had plenty of opportunities to save itself before going down in flames, but for one reason or another it missed each one -- often due to management misgivings. For those who insist on seeing every downfall as somehow Shakespearean, this should be some good fodder.
Vodafone CEO to step down; company back to profit (AP)
Arun Sarin, the longtime boss of global telecom giant Vodafone is stepping down. As for why? Well: "(I) felt the timing was right to hand over as the company is in a good position strategically." At least officially, there's nothing overly interesting to interpret about the story. Sarin will be replaced by his lieutenant Vittorio Colao.
LG Looking at GE Appliance Unit (WSJ)
So, which East Asian manufacturer will buy GE's appliance unit? That's really the big question. LG? Check, could happen, according to its CEO who says they're looking at the unit. Hitachi? Nope, not interested according to its CEO. But who knows what can be done at the right price. Haier? Yes, apparently they've made a bid. Are we forgetting anyone?


S.E.C. Backs Health Care Balloting (NYT)
This is perplexing. The SEC is supporting the right of shareholders to place a proxy ballot measure having something to do with universal health care. Apparently companies had been ignoring these measures (rightfully) on the grounds that universal health care didn't really have anything to do with a shareholder measure. And now the SEC has reversed course, although at least this article doesn't really explain the rationale. But as long as the proxy can be used for all kinds of political statements, we can think of a lot of fun that could be had.
SocGen to face shareholders in shadow of scandal (Reuters)
Reuters builds it up like there's going to be some big showdown at SocGen's shareholder meeting in the wake of the rogue trader, but that might not be the case. Instead it appears that SocGen had a rogue trader issue AND it's about to have its shareholder meeting, but whether there'll be dramatics remains unclear. We're guessing no. We don't know about shareholder meeting in France, but we're still guessing a lot of old grandmothers griping about the performance of their 50 shares.
'Indiana Jones' earns $311 million worldwide (AP)
We still haven't seen it, so don't tell us if it sucked, but we're impressed by $311 million for IJ4. The question is whether it has staying power. These days a film seems very lucky to go three weeks at the top of the box. Has pretty much everyone who's going to see it already seen it? Will people recommend it to their friends that might otherwise be on the fence. And would anyone ever see it twice?
Airfares up (Oligopoly Watch)
The civil aviation game really is just a game of chicken or maybe it's the prisoner's dilemma: whatever it is, it's a big coordination problem, hampered by the fact that you're not allowed to coordinate. So in the economist's parlance, you "signal". Basically, you can try to coordinate, somewhat on prices, but you can't do so explicitly, and you definitely can't punish those who don't tow the line. Anyway, here's an interesting discussion on the latest round of fare hikes and what was accomplished via signaling form the various parties.

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