Opening Bell: 7.1.08

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Only Half Of Iowa Corn Crop Rate Good Or Better (Prairie Farmer)
A little more perspective on the impact from the flooding. Only half of Iowa's corn crop is rated in good condition or better. And only 10 percent is rated excellent. It's a pretty rough story for soybeans too, although apparently it was a bit sunnier this week, so crops recovered slightly. Also, a separate report notes that none of this is as bad as was feared, though the total toll may be like $1.5 billion (that's okay, they can afford it). Question: does corn grade really matter when it comes to ethanol? Sure, you wouldn't want to eat the poorly-rated stuff, but if we're just going to turn it into biofuel, it's no big deal, right?
InBev to keep pursuing Anheuser bid despite rebuff (AP)
InBev isn't going to leave the good citizens of Missourri alone just like that. Cruelly, the Belgian beer purveyor continues to go after Anheuser Busch, as it seeks to by the company as though it were just buying sides of beef. Basically though, this story looks like every other hostile deal we've seen. One company makes the offer. The other blasts it for being inadequate. The other says it's fair. Rinse. Repeat.
Crude Oil Rises on Concern Israel Attack Will Cut Iran Supply (Bloomberg)
That's todays reason. Tomorrow it will be back to Nigerian supply disruptions and/or the weakening dollar.
UK manufacturing weakens sharply (FT)
Not a good econ indicator from across the pond.


Save a Smoker, Buy 'em an iPhone (Infectious Greed)
Turns out: phones and cigarettes are kind of substitute goods, at least according to one (a little bit narrow) study. Well, basically, when someone gets a mobile phone that money often comes out of their cigarette money, and consumption drops. Honest. Check it out.
Debt-Laden Casinos Squeezed by Slowdown (WSJ)
We're pretty bad at making predictions, but the one prediction we correctly made at the beginning of the year was that casinos would not hold up strong in the face of a weakening economy. That was fairly bold, since gambling is thought to be recession proof. Maybe gambling is more recession resistant, like a watch that can be worn in a swimming pool, but not while deep sea diving. The other thing is that Las Vegas has, for awhile now, diversified itself away from gaming. It's not just slots. It's shows and expensive food and luxury shopping, none of which is recession proof at all. They should've stuck to being concentrated in one area.
Wachovia quits offering risky mortgage loan (AP)
You've probably seen ads for these kind of mortgages. Each month, the "homeowner" gets to choose what kind of payment they want to make. Sometimes they just feel like paying off the interest. Sometimes they just pay something else. Sometimes they just pay some partial amount. Apparently it's kind of controversial and Wachovia is eliminating one of its options. Basically, folks are complaining that the payment is not enough and that the homeowner could wind up with some kind of negative amortization or something and wind up in default. Whatever. The basic point is that there's a big backlash on any lending that's perceived as being risky by dint of its being too lenient with borrowers, and apparently this was.
NWA scraps Europe flights from Detroit, Hartford (Today in the Sky)
First of all, props on the redesign at Today in the Sky, though we kind of like the old one too. Second: NWA eliminated its Detroit-Dusseldorf flight. Sorry, but why was there ever a Dusseldorf flight from Detroit. The only thing we can think of is that it was a car thing, which might make a little sense. But nothing on Dusseldorf's Wikipedia page suggests that the auto industry has much role there. Barring that, it's kind of unfathomable why these two cities would have a direct flight back and forth. Maybe it's just that somehow NWA got some gates at Dusseldorf and since it uses Detroit as a hub, it felt it had to take advantage of it. Also being canceled is Hartford-Amsterdam, which is a little easier to fathom.
WSOP Day 32: Whore's Horse Afterthought (Tao of Pauly)
You should read this post for the before-and-after picture of Michael DiMichele. The before picture is before he made the final table, sitting there in a shirt and a vest. The after: pretty much the same clothing, but decked out like a NASCAR driver. All over him are patches from various sponsors: poker sites, energy drinks stuff like that. Anyway, DiMichele made the final table at the prestigious 50k entry fee HORSE event, a tournament rotating between five games (Hold 'Em, Omaha Hi-Lo, Razz, Stud, 8s or Better... pretty sure that's what they are). Anyway, who won? Scotty Nguyen, a former winner of the WSOP main event, and a presque-final tablist last year. Pretty awesome. He took home $2 million pre-tax.

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