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Opening Bell: 7.16.08

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac May Halt Dividends on Losses (Bloomberg)
The sacredness of the almighty dividend is really something impressive. You can string together years of losses and marketshare gains, and only now be cutting your dividend (GM). Or you can be, for all intents and purposes, a failed bank, and still folks talk about how you "may" cut your dividend (Fannie and Freddie). Let's hope that before the Treasury bails them out by buying stock or whatever the heck they're going to do, the two mortgage firms at least decide to hold onto the existing cash they already have.
AOL talks with Microsoft and Yahoo heat up (Reuters)
Everybody knows that AOL is waiting in the wings on some kind of a deal. People have been constructing scenarios for the Time Warner-owned portal could fit into both Yahoo and Microsoft, and to some extent, it does make sense with both of them. And now, with MSFT and YHOO and looking less and less likely, Reuters says AOL is talking intensely to both companies. What that means is unclear. But whatever, they're talking.
GM aims to keep automaker afloat (Detroit Free Press)
The car market continues to tank pretty hard. GM has announced a new wave of cost cutting and initiatives, which is pretty wild when you think about it, since that's all they've been doing for the last several years. Even Toyota keeps ratcheting back their estimates in the US, which is why they haven't quite taken over the top spot, just quite yet. Good news for our hometown Detroit though: A company called K-Dow Petrochemical plans to make the D its headquarters, and will employ 800 people.
Goldman Is Queried About Bear's Fall (WSJ)
This is silly. So it seems that Goldman, mainly because they haven't gotten hit too hard in the credit mess, is now taking flack from fallen rivals that have. Both Alan Schwartz and Dick Fuld have pinged CEO Lloyd Blankenfein to inquire about rumors, that Goldman traders manipulated prices in their shares. Obviously Goldman denied wrongdoing, but seriously, what good is it to go down these roads now, and make these accusations. Maybe they should ask why Goldman's stock price hasn't been manipulated downward. Seriously, all this talk has to end before this mess can go to rest.

Seeing Oil Bubble, a Contrarian Bets on an Indian Airline (NYT)
An interesting discussion of Wilbur Ross' $80 million investment in Indian airline SpiceJet, ostensibly predicated on the idea that oil prices will contract sharply: "The fundamentals don't justify an oil price over $100" a barrel, Mr. Ross said. "It is the nature of bubbles that they expand farther and last longer than anyone logically imagined" he said, but "they always reverse."
Making Sense Of Dichotomy (AVC)
Fred Wilson talks econ, and tries to unpack the dichotomy: stocks in the toilet, along with most other major indictors, while at the same time the businesses he works with are growing like crazy. Certainly the type of company he's prone to invest in has a lot to do with this. Worth a read for his thoughts.
Overreacting to a Computer Beating Poker Pros (Freakonomics)
Steve Levitt is right: the fact that a computer beat a pro in heads up, limit-hold'em does not mean that poker has been "solved" by any stretch. As he notes, there's an elemant of luck in poker, which means folks like us could beat Chris Ferguson every once in a while. The same couldn't be said if we went up against Anatoly Karpov. Second: limit hold 'em is far less rand or variable than the more popular no limit, which requires much more 'feel". Limit hold 'em can be pretty methodical and broken down mathemtically, because the betting ranges are finite. And it's one-on-one poker, which is again, breaking things down quite simplistically. When you can stick a computer into a ring game with a group of pros playing a no limit cash game, then we'll see where they stand.