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Opening Bell: 5.30.08

Regulators Step Up Probes Of Trading in Oil Markets (WSJ)
So the war on speculators continues to heat up. With oil in the general $130 range, it just has to be traders that are to blame. And now the CFTC, not usually known as a particularly aggressive or powerful regulator body is on the case, looking out for all the folks getting ready for summer driving season. But as the article points out, there are still some people out there who believe the price has something to do with supply and demand and not nefarious traders.
Courts Reject Two Major Vioxx Verdicts (NYT)
It's been a really long time since we've heard anything about the Vioxx verdicts. Last we checkek in, Merck was still solidly winning in court, and since we reflexively side with the big corporation, we weren't complaining. The latest: An appealrs court in Texas overturned a big chunk of one of the company's defeats, though they'll still have to lay out some cash. So even their losses aren't as big as they first seemed. And the $4.85 million that they will pay out covers 100,000 people, so on a person-by-person basis, it's not really all that much.
Shopping for Unrestricted Free Agents (The Wages of Wins)
We're looking forward to our Pistons evening the score tonight and can't get basketball off the brain. Thankfully, since the Pistons are consistently good, we don't have to worry about them scratching for talent in places where it's hard to find. But for other teams, this makes an important read, as it's basically an economic discussion of the free agent market. Check it out if you're a basketball GM.
First a TV Series, Then Off to Jail (NYT)
Arguably this isn't financial news, but we still get excited about great displays of American capitalism... the rapper TI, who is evidently going to jail at some point, will be filming a reality show for MTV all about his final days before being sent to the cooler. He's also working on a new album. And though we haven't heard anyone doing this gimmick in a while, we hope he guests on someone else's album via phone from prison, where he'll be for just one year.

KB Homes: U.S. Home Prices Will Drop 10% More (Big PIcture)
Ten percent more... we could stomach that, right? The CEO of KB Homes (perhaps wishfully?) says that's how much further houses have to drop in price before they recover.
Will Oil Really Hit $200 a Barrel? (American)
Desmond Lachman argues that oil just can't keep going up forever and ever and that, to some extent, market participants tend to forget this. It's not a screed against traders and speculators... that can be left to politicians. But it's people like Lachman that prove we've still got a ways to go. Until all the doubters are full on bulls, there's still room to rally, no? Actually, the article is definitely worth a read: In their state of forgetfulness, many pension funds and insurance companies have built up very large open positions in the oil futures market. These positions are now estimated to total over $200 billion, roughly the equivalent of a full year of Chinese oil demand. They have contributed to the recent spectacular run-up in oil prices.