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Opening Bell: 7.15.08

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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At Core Of Greek Chaos, A Reviled Tax (WSJ) So despised is the property tax that its critics—which is to say, most of Greece—refer to it as the haratsi, after a per capita tax imposed by the occupying Ottomans. About three-quarters of Greece's households own their homes. Like many other European countries, Greece already has some property taxes. But those have been aimed mostly at higher-value properties and raised little revenue. JPMorgan To Spin Out 'Special Investments' (FT) The unit, whose investments include LightSquared, the wireless internet provider, will be moved to the bank’s corporate division and prevented from seeking fresh investment opportunities, bankers were told on Wednesday. Woman Who Wouldn't Be Intimidated By Citigroup Wins $31 Million (Bloomberg Markets) Sherry Hunt never expected to be a senior manager at a Wall Street bank. She was a country girl, raised in rural Michigan by a dad who taught her to fish and a mom who showed her how to find wild mushrooms. She listened to Marty Robbins and Buck Owens on the radio and came to believe that God has a bigger plan, that everything happens for a reason. She got married at 16 and didn’t go to college. After she had her first child at 17, she needed a job. A friend helped her find one in 1975, processing home loans at a small bank in Alaska. Sherry Hunt never expected to be a senior manager at a Wall Street bank. She was a country girl, raised in rural Michigan by a dad who taught her to fish and a mom who showed her how to find wild mushrooms. She listened to Marty Robbins and Buck Owens on the radio and came to believe that God has a bigger plan, that everything happens for a reason. She got married at 16 and didn’t go to college. After she had her first child at 17, she needed a job. A friend helped her find one in 1975, processing home loans at a small bank in Alaska...In March 2011, more than two years after Citigroup took $45 billion in bailouts from the U.S. government and billions more from the Federal Reserve -- more in total than any other U.S. bank -- Jeffery Polkinghorne, an O’Fallon executive in charge of loan quality, asked Hunt and a colleague to stay in a conference room after a meeting. The encounter with Polkinghorne was brief and tense, Hunt says. The number of loans classified as defective would have to fall, he told them, or it would be “your asses on the line.” Hunt says it was clear what Polkinghorne was asking -- and she wanted no part of it. Jobless Claims Increased Last Week (Bloomberg) First-time claims for jobless benefits increased by 10,000 to 383,000 in the week ended May 26 from a revised 373,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said today. The initial claims exceeded the median estimate of 370,000 in a Bloomberg News survey of economists. The number of people on unemployment benefit rolls dropped. For French CEO's, Politics Means Big Pay Cuts (WSJ) Top managers at France's state-owned companies are expected to face significant pay cuts next month, when Socialist President François Hollande plans to begin enforcing salary caps as part of his broader electoral pledge to get tough on the rich. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Hollande vowed to curb "excessive" remunerations at France's 52 state-controlled or partially state-owned companies by ordering that executive pay not exceed 20 times the salary of the lowest-ranking employees. New York Plans to Ban Sale of Big Sizes of Sugary Drinks (NYT) The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March. Gorman, Greifeld ‘Face’ off (NYP) Morgan Stanley is prepared to take Nasdaq to court to recoup money it believes it lost in the flubbed Facebook initial public offering. CEO James Gorman’s investment bank, which led the now-notorious, snafu-ridden Facebook IPO, believes Bob Greifeld’s Nasdaq owes it roughly $10 million, sources said. The investment bank, which quarterbacked the $16 billion Facebook offering, had to shell out to clients a seven-figure sum to resolve a litany of Nasdaq trading glitches. Morgan Stanley's Facebook Analyst: Sober Man in World of Hype (Reuters) Scott Devitt was one of a number of analysts to lower his revenue and earnings expectations for the social media giant after the company informed analysts that it was dropping its quarterly and annual revenue guidance. Facebook also issued an amended prospectus cautioning that the shift of its users to mobile platforms could have a negative impact on revenue growth. Such a move was highly unusual because it occurred just days before Facebook's highly anticipated IPO, whose lead underwriter was Morgan Stanley, Devitt's employer. The investment bank not only had control over the process, but over 38 percent of Facebook shares being sold. Devitt's and other analysts' revised revenue forecasts were shared via phone calls with institutional investors, but not with retail investors, before the stock began trading publicly. That in turn raised questions over whether the playing field was skewed against Main Street investors from the start and sparked lawsuits. Citigroup Debt Viewed As Risky (WSJ) Gimme Credit, a fixed-income research company based in New York, said it expects debt issued by the third-biggest U.S. bank by assets to perform less well over the next six months than bonds issued by the company's peers. Russian Zuckerberg Throws Money Paper Planes At Passersby (MSN) Russian millionaire Pavel Durov reportedly spent last weekend flying paper airplanes made from 5,000-ruble notes (equal to about $160) out the window of his office in St. Petersburg. The 27-year-old gave away around $2,000 before he stopped because "people turned into animals" grabbing the cash. Durov is the CEO of Russia's largest social network Vkontakte, which sort of makes him the Russki Mark Zuckerberg. Scarf-Wearing Pig Stuns Motorists (UPI) Pennsylvania State Police said a baby pig wearing a scarf crossed rush hour traffic in Pittsburgh and disappeared into the woods. Police said the fashionable swine was spotted crossing the inbound lanes of Parkway West near the Green Tree exit around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, and many motorists pulled off the parkway and stopped to take pictures of the unusual pedestrian. Troopers said the pig had crossed over a guardrail and into the woods by the time they arrived, and they were unable to locate the animal.