Opening Bell: 7.15.08

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Regional Indexes Tumble As Bank Shares Plummet (WSJ)
A sea of red overseas, as bank shares led the charge downward. Among the hard hit markets; Taiwan -4.51 percent, Shanghai -3.85 percent, and Japan down -1.86. Evidently the top three banks in Japan hold a combined $44 billion in Fannie and Freddy debt, a figure that was published in a local newspaper.
IndyMac Reopens, Halts Foreclosures on Its Loans (WSJ)
At least a few consumers are winners of the IndyMac debacle. The bank isn't currently kicking anyone out of their homes. No foreclosures, as instead the government will work with borrowers to figure out how they can save their homes. Maybe this is the prudent thing to do. Or maybe the government has its hands really full running the bank, so there's nobody left over to bother kicking folks out of their homes. That's our guess.
Burberry Sales Rise 22% on Earlier Shipments of Goods (Bloomberg)
The rich are still spending it looks like, since Burberry (whose cultural stock seems to have dropped over the past couple of years, since rappers stopped getting Burberry-customized Nikes), said sales rose 22 percent in the latest quarter. That being said, the company is borrowing from the future a bit. It shipped more bags in advance for the fall, which it claims it did because of a new internal SAP setup promising better accuracy. Let's hope. There's a company looking to sell a bunch of excess chocolate bars for the same reasoning.
The Depressive Realism Economy (American)
The other day, McCain econ advisor Phil Gramm took some hits for suggesting that our recession might somehow be mental and that if Americans would only buck up, we'd be fine. That came off insensitive, but we think there's something to that. Problem is, that applies to every recession and boom. It's all in our minds, but does that make it any less painful? Anyway, Arnold Kling talks a bit more about the psychology of economic swings, and the challenges of adjusting to the new reality. Basically, when you're used to having an inflated view of yourself that's well beyond what's realistic, it's not easy ratcheting down your expectations.


Dean Hamrick Eliminated in 10th Place ($591,869)
While you were sleeping, the pokerers in Vegas were playing down to the final 9 of the WSOP Main Event. The 10th player was finally just eliminated at 6:34 ET after like 14 hours of play. Excited about the final table? Too bad. In their infinite wisdom. the authorities decided to play the final table in November. Surely it has to do something with money and TV. See here for chip counts.
How Many Silicon Valley Startup Executives Are Hopped Up On Provigil?
Evidently there's some prescription drug called Provigil that's become the pill of choice in Silicon Valley, among execs looking for the extra oomph, that extra dose of mental clarity and stamina. Well, Mike Arrington's friends say they know people on it. It's pretty sad though. You have to figure all these kids want to be the next Max Levchin, and the message they're being sent is: you have to get on pills to succeed. Not that Levchin is on pills, but the kids will assume that the best are. For more, check out its chemical name Modafinil.
InBev Looks to Expand Budweiser's Reach (NYT)
If you've gone drinking with the Opening Bell before, you know we're kinda into Budweiser. It's simple, consistent and it's got a nice, easy-to-peel label. What else do you want in a beer. So we're glad to see that as part of InBev's post acq. strategy, it hopes to expand Budweiser's global footprint. Of course, when we're abroad we're faced with that standard traveler's dilemma. Drink local or drink familiar? This will make it more tough, though we'll still lean towards drinking local.

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Glencore, Xstrata Move Closer to Deal (WSJ) The two companies, who want to combine to form the world's fourth-largest diversified miner with a market capitalization of about $80 billion, said they still need to secure regulatory approval from China. They will also have to abide by conditions set out by the South African regulator limiting the timing and scope of any layoffs stemming from the merger. SAC Misses Out On Big Investment (WSJ) Mizuho Financial Group had discussed last year making a major investment that could have brought as much as $500 million to SAC, said people briefed on discussions with SAC executives and advisers. But the bank ultimately notified SAC that it wasn't proceeding. By December, with scrutiny of SAC's trading practices mounting, the firm's executives told advisers and others inside and outside the firm that Mizuho's decision appeared final, the people said. Global A-List Descends On Davos (WSJ) Of all the sectors it is probably the bankers who are fielding the highest concentration of big names. Anshu Jainof Deutsche Bank AG,  Brian T. Moynihan of Bank of America Corp., Lloyd C. Blankfein of Goldman Sachs and HSBC Holdings CEO Stuart T. Gulliver are just a sample. Trust in Business Leaders at Low as Davos Begins (CNBC) Less than one in five people believe business and government leaders can be trusted to make ethical and moral decisions, the survey of some 30,000 people showed, with confidence particularly low in France and Germany. Calpers Buy-Hold Rule Recoups $95 Billion Recession Loss (WSJ) The California Public Employees’ Retirement System is poised to top a record $260 billion in assets, the market value it held before the global financial crisis wiped out more than a third of its wealth, by sticking with a strategy of buy-and-hold. The largest U.S. public pension, with half of its money in publicly traded equities, was worth $253.2 billion on Jan. 17, or about 97 percent of the pre-recession high set in October 2007. The fund returned 13 percent in 2012, about the same gain as the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index achieved. Armstrong Becomes ‘Madoff on a Bike’ as Cheating Shatters Lives (Bloomberg) “He’s Bernie Madoff on a bike,” said John Llewellyn, an associate professor of communication at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “The level of self-absorption and mean-spiritedness with which he has defended himself and castigated others over a decade makes an impression that’s pretty bleak for the human spirit.” Irish lawmakers back plan to allow drink-driving ‘in moderation’ (The Journal) KERRY count councillors have voted in favour of a motion which would allow people in rural Ireland to have ‘two or three’ drinks and still drive. The motion put forward by councillor Danny Healy-Rae calls on the Minister for Justice to allow Gardaí to issue permits to people in the most isolated parts of the country to allow them to drive after drinking some alcohol. Speaking to The Journal, Danny Healy-Rae said the idea was to help “those people in every parish who are isolated and who can’t get out of their place at night." Barclays Loses Anonymity (Bloomberg) A group of Barclays employees had a request to prevent their names from being published ahead of the UK’s first trial related to manipulation of the London interbank offered rate rejected by a judge yesterday. “I simply do not see that there is any sufficient case of prejudice” to the trial, Judge Julian Flaux said in dismissing the request. The names weren’t immediately released. Affiliates of Guardian Care Homes sued Barclays over an interest-rate swap tied to Libor and argued the benchmark was manipulated. The swap resulted in a loss for the Wolverhampton, England-based Guardian and Barclays was ordered to give the company’s lawyers the identities and e-mails of bank staff that were included in disclosures to regulators. Atari’s U.S. Operations File for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy (Bloomberg) Atari SA’s U.S.-based video-game- making businesses filed for bankruptcy protection inManhattan with the intention of separating from the unprofitable French parent and seeking independent funding. New York-based Atari Inc., maker of video games “Pong” and “Asteroids,” as well as affiliates Atari Interactive Inc., Humongous Inc. and California U.S. Holdings Inc., asked to be jointly administered in filings yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, according to a statement. “Within the next 90 to 120 days, the companies expect to effectuate a sale of all, or substantially all, of their assets,” in a free and clear sale under the U.S. bankruptcy laws, or confirm reorganization plans that “accomplish substantially the same result,” according to the statement. EU Approves Financial Transactions Tax (Reuters) A majority of European Union finance ministers voted on Tuesday to allow Germany, France and nine other euro zone countries to prepare to introduce a tax on financial transactions, said two officials who attended the meeting. The vote clears the way for Germany,France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Portugal, Belgium, Estonia, Greece, Slovakia and Slovenia to press ahead with their own tax on trading. Man paddles for love of Florida waters (NWFDN) Justin Riney turned his back on his degree in finance and last year followed his heart and founded his own non-profit organization: Mother Ocean...Riney needed a project to kick off his newly-founded organization and bring attention to it and when he read that 500 years had passed since Ponce de Leon discovered Florida, he decided that was a cause for celebration. On Jan. 1 he began a 365-day journey around Florida on a stand-up paddle board from Pensacola. He plans to spend six months paddling the peninsula, ending In Jacksonville on July 4. Then, he will spend six months on the inner waterways, ending Dec. 31 in Tallahassee. He has named this adventure Expedition Florida 500. Briton wrestles shark away from children in Australia (Telegraph) The incident happened on Friday in the Sunshine Coast region of the state of Queensland, and was captured by a local news team. According to Australia's Channel Nine, the shark came into very shallow waters and two men rushed to move it away before it reached children who were playing in the water nearby. Paul Marshallsea, a grandfather from Wales, and Terry Dale, a wildlife carer, pushed the shark towards open waters. The shark was also spotted in shallow waters of a creek by frightened parents, children and tourists.