Opening Bell: 5.6.08

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UBS To Sell Mortgage Assets, Cut Jobs As First-Quarter Loss Nearly $11 Billion (WSJ)
More of the same at UBS: Another $11 billion lost. Another $2600 raised. And also a big sale of $15 billion worth of subprime assets, which had a nominal value of $22 billion. Nominal being the operative word there. Though it seems that if every asset that nominally priced at $22 could be sold for $15, it's not the worst gap there is. Or maybe it is the worst.
Las Vegas used to be a recession-proof oasis. Not anymore. (Newsweek)
Well, it may finally be time to put an end to that notion. The chips are down across the board in vegas, probably for a combo of reasons. A big one: Vegas is less of a gambling town than it used to be. By putting such an emphasis on food and shows -- neither of which are as addictive as roulette -- the casinos have diversified away from their bread and butter. Beyond that, there's gambling everywhere. Online is down, but so many states have legalized it in some form. And the popularity of low-margin poker can't help, since people lose most of their money to other players, rather than the house.
Indonesia considers quitting OPEC (AP)
Interesting, though not surprising. Indonesia hasn't really been an oil exporter for a while, so its presence in OPEC seemed mainly out of tradition, rather than logic. Said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in what is sure to be grist for the peak oil mill: "Our wells are drying." They haven't made a final decision yet, but the basic idea is that because they're not an exporter, it doesn't make sense to be part of an exporters' cartel. Makes sense.
Who will reap the benefits of a gas tax holiday? (Megan McArdle)
As an exercise in contrianism, we've been trying to think of a good argument against all the haters, taking shots at Hillary Clinton for her support of a summer gas tax holiday. But so far we haven't tried to hard. In the meantime, here's Megan McArdle taking shots at the summer gas tax holiday. And quite well at that.


Time To Fire Your Customers (Plane Buzz)
An interesting look at load factors across the various airlines, and how they correlate/don't correlate to profitability. Anomaly: Southwest actually has pretty poor load factors, but compared to its industry peers does a better job of making money. While others have kept their capacity pretty high, but are swimming in the red stuff, suggesting some deep problems with how the company is run.
Democratic Presidential Primaries (Intrade)
The markets are calling for a split decision today, giving Obama a winning chance in the high 90s, while Hillary is in the high 80s in Indiana. If both win convincingly will anything change? Probably not. Despite the appeared loss of momentum for Obama, his overall odds of winning the nom have come down only slightly -- he's currently trading in the low 70s. He'd really need to get shellacked everywhere and then see a flood of superdelegates go HIllary's way for this to be over for him.
Microsoft to Put Voice-Activation Software in Hyundais (NYT)
Not exactly the same as winning Yahoo, but certainly Ballmer can take a bow.
New Titans of Las Vegas Reinvent Old Formula (NYT)
And just because we like to write about gambling, here's another article about Las Vegas. This one though is about how there's a younger generation in town, pushing the Kirkorian's and the Wynn's out of their dominant perch. It's not happening yet, but you know the Maloof brothers and all. Not that the Maloof brothers (owner of the Palms {which had that one Real World [the one with the threesome in episode 1]}) haven't gotten plenty of media attention already -- they have.

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