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Opening Bell: 6.24.08

GM Slates Sweeping Rebates As Toyota Closes In on No. 1 (WSJ)
A couple things to note here... first is that GM is still "on the verge" of no longer being #1. Hats off to 'em. They've been "on the verge" of no longer being #1 forever, so that's an accomplishment. Also, the company is going to start offering big rebates. Why not just slash the price directly? Remember how much coverage they got for their employee-pricing scheme? That was seen as a great boon, even though it was just a gimmick. They kept that up for a long time and cleared out some inventory, which was good. And then they went back to rebates. If you've been a longtime reader of the site, you know we talked about this a lot early days. Some things never change. Actually, that's really true. Props to MarketBeat for a nice chart of GM since 1971. The stock has now returned to levels not seen since 1975. Sucks to lose 33 years.
Toyota May Cut Sales Goal as U.S. Truck Demand Slumps (Bloomberg)
Meanwhile it's not like Toyota is somehow immune from the whole thing. In fact their woes (aging workforce, model, factories, maturity) has been well documented. And the company says it may cut expectations on weak US truck demand. You know the drill: consumers want those slight, fuel efficient cars that made Toyota so popular and desired to begin with.
NYSE Euronext beats LSE to Doha deal (FT)
NYSE is paying $250 million for a 25 percent stake in the Doha (Qatar) stock exchange. By our math that values the exchange at around $1 billion. Evidently, the NYSE was in a bidding war for the chunk, going up against LSE and the Deuche Borse, cause you know everyone wants a piece of that scene. With any luck, the Qatar government won't bring up national security issues at the prospect of a foreign purchaser making such a big buy of one of their key financial institutions.
At Google, Slow Growth in News Site (NYT)
This sounds about right... Google News, once lauded as the future of online news, has grown stale, and traffic is pretty flat. We used to read it all the time, now we hardly go there anymore. It's pretty ugly, and there's something to be said for human editing. The robot only does so well. Not that it's a huge deal either way, though it confirms something about Google, which is that they're still looking for a big non-search moneymaker, or really any big non-search hit. Google News seemed like it was going to be big, but it hasn't been. Perhaps because of skittishness and legal issues with the newspapers, they haven't put as much time/money/effort into this as they'd have needed to to make it work.

Pakistan Stock Index Surges Most in Six Years on Support Plan (Bloomberg)
When (if?) things get really bad here, the government should look to Pakistan for guidance. The Karachi exchange staged a monster rally (8.6 percent) after the government issued a decree (law) limiting the downside for stocks: "The exchange will limit price declines to 1 percent a day from 5 percent, and double the cap on increases to 10 percent." Also, the government plans a big stabilization fund, meaning it will eat some of the economy's losses, so that traders don't have to.
Obama offers steps to curb oil speculation (Reuters)
This story is already kind of getting old, but we haven't been paying attention to it, so it deserves some ink. Barack Obama and John McCain are in the midst of some unholy war over who would do a better job of "clamping down" on energy speculation. Utterly ridic. Brilliant of Barack Obama though to paint high oil prices as the result of an "Enron Loophole" whatever the hell that means. And as part of his claim that McCain is responsible, he's attacked his econ advisor Phil Gramm for being the author of the loophole. That prompted Gramm to come out and say something like he hates speculators as much as the next guy, which must've pained him, since Gramm always seemed to us like a fairly principled free market guy. Or maybe that's just a total misperception.
New Car Alert: We Are Hybrid Owners Now (Conglomerate)
Forgive the slight auto theme this morning. Christine Hurt of the Conglomerate talks about the thought process of buying a new car, which ultimately ended up in her getting a hybrid (you know, gas mileage). Anyway, one thing we didn't realize is that hybrid subsidies from the federal government are applied unevenly. Basically, Toyota hybrids aren't subsidized cause there's already such high demand for them. On the other hand, hunkier, unloved hybrids are eligible for a subsidy it seems. No doubt, there's no reason to subsidize a Prius. The population's own sense of the environment, etc. is a enough of a subsidy. We wonder if perhaps this is Detroit's doing, and if the hybrid subsidy ends up going more towards domestic models.
Annals of Crap Research, M&A Leaks Edition (Felix Salmon)
Nice work from Felix on this one... a few weeks ago, you may recall, some company put out a press release saying that research showed that when a deal leaked to the press, it caused considerable harm (a lower premium, basically). It always seemed like nonsense, especially since the company touting the research was in the business of leak prevention. Anyway, Felix got his hands on the data and well, it doesn't take a forensic accountant or even an econometrician to figure out what's wrong here. Their sample size is, in a word, small, and, in another two words, cherry picked. We're happy, cause as press that likes to break stories before they're meant to come out, it means we don't have to feel guilty about destroying shareholder value.