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Opening Bell: 7.3.08

Oil prices near $146 (AP)
Iran, US stockpiles, comments from the Saudis about not boosting production, etc. etc. Also, interest rate hike possibilities in Europe, potentially weakening the dollar.

ECB hikes key rate to 4.25%
(Market Watch)
The European Central Bank lived up to its promises this morning, hiking interest rates by a quarter of a point. The move initially inverted yield curves in Europe, traditionally a signal that an economic recession may lay ahead. It also highlights the differences between the missions of the Federal Reserve and the ECB. The Fed is charged with maintaining general economic and financial stability, balancing growth, jobs and inflation. The ECB is charged solely with monetary stability, making it institutionally more hawkish on inflation. The Euro will likely rise against the dollar, as will oil.
Gelato Goes Gourmet (WSJ)
The gelato industry is going global, using fancy names and fancy ingredients to tout itself as the discerning man's ice cream. Of course, it's always just been ice cream with a fancy name, but whatever. Nonetheless, we were thinking last night, as we walked by a gelatoria: hasn't gelato lost its moment? For awhile there, it was the frozen dessert, but it just seems like the gourmet frozen yogurt wave, characterized by a million Pinkberry clones, continues to hold onto its grip of dessert seekers. Unless that's peaked. As much as you might roll your eyes everytime you see a new Pinkberry, from our vantage point, it still has a ways to go before it crests.
A Lucrative Deal for Rush Limbaugh (NYT)
This is the Drudge effect in action. Yesterday, he "reported" that the NYT Magazine was going to announce this weekend that Rush Limbaugh had signed a deal in the hundreds of millions. That seems to have prompted the paper itself to run this piece today, spilling some of the beans from the magazine. Anyway, good for him. And he's not even exclusive on either XM or Sirius. Pretty impressive.
India Bans Corn Exports to Control Domestic Prices (Bloomberg)
We had no idea that India was the world's sixth largest corn producer. Anyway, it doesn't matter now, because we won't be eating any Indian corn anytime soon (not that we would, since it's pretty much the sugariest vegetable there is... but that's a digression). In an effort to cool prices, which are up in India (probably not due to the flooding in Iowa, and possibly not even to US ethanol policy, though maybe), the government has banned the export of the golden stuff. The ban will run from now until October 15th.
New Steps to Aid Economy Are Advocated (WSJ)
As the last batch of counterfeit money stimulus checks rolls off the printing press, politicians are already discussing what can be done next to boos the economy. Hey! What about more stimulus checks?
Predictably Irritating (Infectious Greed)
We're pretty tired of all the Freaknonomics-clones out there, too. It's not that the books are wrong, or that they don't have some interesting examples of stuff that make you go "hmm" it's really just that the whole genre has gotten stale. As Paul Kedrosky puts it: "More broadly, however, I had a deeper problem, and it has to do with the whole subject. Because I just don't care anymore. I'm not interested in more freakonomo-clones about those nutty human satisficers. I've heard the stories. Over and over. And I've heard enough to make me wonder how all we supposedly idiotic humans manage to step off sidewalks without being killed if we're so dumb. I'm really, really tired of carnie cognitive sideshows about stupid mind tricks. I get it. We're dumb. We're flawed. We take mental shortcuts. I get it. Really. Now stop telling me that, and tell me something how we idiots survive in our chaotic world." But if you must know, he was reading a book called, predictably, Predictably Irrational, which sounds like it has the exact same premise of another book that's out Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior.
Picks to win Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest (
Pretty much the main thing we look forward to every 4th of July is the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog eating championship. Sadly, we won't be there this year, though we'll obviously be watching on ESPN from a pool party in New Jersey. You know the backstory, right? Last year, world champ Takeru Kobayashi went down to the American Joey Chestnut, though both broke Kobayashi's previous world record was amazing. The two are back this year, and now Chestnut is the favorite. In fact, the Vegas odds on him are 5-6. Meanwhile, according to Gambling911, the line on the winning hot dog number is 68.5.