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Opening Bell: 7.17.08

JPMorgan Chase profit falls 53 pct on loan losses (AP)
It looks ugly, but it's not unexpected, and in fact JPM seems to have exceeded analyst estimates in its latest report, so that's something. The company lost more than $500 million due to that thing with that company Bear Stearns which they bailed out/bought earlier this year. Here's more from CNNMoney, also suggesting that it beat expectations. And here's the release. The good news: futures are up on the news. Maybe we can put together two winning days in a row.
Fannie, Freddie spent millions on lobbying (AP)
For some reason, the newswires make a story every quarter out of how much each company spent on lobbying. So you'll see plenty of titles like "Google spent 60k on lobbying in Q1" or "Intel spent 2.2 million on lobbying in Q1" etc. Anyway, so yeah, Fannie and Freddie spent a little bit Not surprising, really, cause every financial company in the world lobbies heavily and wants close, comfy ties with the government. It's not that high actually: $170 million over the last decade, between two companies. That doesn't strike us as particularly high -- an average of $8.5 million per year, each. It would've been more interesting to see some comps from other financial organizations, though they do say that the total tally is less than the AMA (yes, the American Media Association -- AKA the Dr. Union) and a bit more than GE. Ok, that helps a little.
Car Buyers Downsize, but Spend Big on Options (NYT)
An interesting little wrinkle to American car buying habits... increasingly we're buying smaller, cheaper, fuel efficienter cars, but we're not cutting back on added features. You know, stuff like CD players, cup holders, airbags, and power locks. This seems to be in line with classic human behavior. You pay attention to the big sticker, but don't get too worried about smaller stickers. It's also smart. Big cars often suck and are uncomfortable and not worth the money. Hummer? Have you ever ridden in one?
Voters Want Economic Leadership (Karl Rove)
It must be nice to be Karl Rove: he got leaked that little factlet about how much Fannie and Freddie spend on marketing so it could make it into his op-ed today at the WSJ. Today he devotes his space to explaining how either Barack Obama or John McCain need to take "bold moves" to deal with Fannie Freddie. He doesn't actually use the term "bold moves" but he might as well, since it's all meaningless politician pablum, really. "Serious reforms must include immediate measures to prevent Fannie and Freddie from collapsing, and long-term changes to protect taxpayers. That means jettisoning the implied federal financial backstop and shrinking Fannie and Freddie." The rest of the piece is similarly illuminating.

FBI probes IndyMac for possible fraud (ThomsonReuters)
A link without a comment.
2008 WSOP Day 46: Main Event Day 7 - Nonagon (Tao of Poker)
Poker junkies will have to wait until firgin' November to find out what happens with the WSOP, not because that's when ESPN is going to show it, but because that's when they're going to play it. The good news for the nine players that have made the final table: they've already received the 900k+ that would be the minimum they'd receive for busing out next. So they have the whole summer to let nearly $1 million bucks bring out the degenerates in them. Having just weathered the whole WSOP madness, Pauly talks philosophy and money.
My parents stuff my kids with crisps and ice cream. Can I do anything to change this? (FT)
Of all the pop economists out there, Tim Harford is one of the few we have total respect for, for various reasons. Today in his "Ask The Economist" column, he fields a question close to our heart, given our loathing of all things sugary and simple carbohydrates. Basically, it's a parent concerned that when the kids are with the grandparents they get feed too much junk food. Important issue! As Harford explains, it's all about time horizon. Grandparents don't have to deal with the long-term consequences, the way actual parents do. Hence...