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Opening Bell: 7.31.08

China's Shift on Food Was Key to Trade Impasse (NYT)
Tilt! It was the emerging developed nations to blame for the collapse of the Doha trade rounds, it seems. And here we thought it was all about the US protecting Iowa corn farmers. Turns out it was the Indians and Chinese hoping to protect key agricultural exports. Oh well. It's actually a good sign of the progress of both of those countries that they now behave like aging Western superpowers with something to lose.
Layoffs possible for 22K California state workers (AP)
The other day they were talking about paying all of California's state employees the minimum wage. Now they're talking about laying off 22,000 temporary and part timers to overcome a budget shortfall. Stepping back for a sec, is there any organization more cylically extreme than the California state government. It alternates every few years between crazy surpluses and crazy defecits, and never seems to realize that all good things must come to an end. Perhaps all political units are similarly misbehaved, but since California is a breeding ground for bubbles (tech, socal real estate), they just really feel it hard.
Broker Goes Missing As Securities Charges Near (WSJ)
Here's a shocker. The Credit Suisse broker due to face charges over... something... may have fled the country to Bulgaria where he's from. No official comment from lawyers or anyone, but the prosecutors obviously leaked this to The Journal to get the word out. Anyway, now the public can be on the lookout Julian Tzolov. If you see him, don't confront him directly. He may engage you in some securities fraud or something.
China's Debt Rating Raised to A+ by Standard & Poor's (Bloomberg)
With $1.8 trillion padding the bank account, S&P is growing increasingly confident that China can pay its bills.

Morgan Stanley could spend $1bn on new hires (FT)
Jobs! Morgan Stanley may spend up to $1 billion on new hires, taking advantage of widespread layoffs in the financial sector. CEO John Mack has called this a "historic opportunity" to recruit talent, according to sources. Only bad news is that it doesn't sound like most of the jobs will be around here: In particular, the company wants to bolster its business in the Middle East and Asia.
Google to Extend Reach With Venture-Capital Arm (WSJ)
Not too surprising really that Google is set to launch its own VC arm. Its already made a few small VC-like investments, but the company is sitting on so much cash, it needs to do something like this, lest it get accused of being capital inefficient. As the article notes, Silicon Valley corporate VC arms have kind of a mixed track record. Intel is probably the most famous and most long running, but not clear that it's ever produced much by way of returns, or whether it's helped much strategically. The company had hired 33-year old entrepreneur William Maris.
Vietnam's Growing Pains (The American)
For awhile, the Vietnam story was only a positive one, as it was set to be the new Thailand or Malaysia. We didn't know things had slowed down, but inflation has spiked and the market has cratered in recent months. Wasn't Carney just there? Maybe he can speak to what's up.
How big is the free economy? (The Long Tail)
You probably new this, but Wired Editor Chris Anderson, the guy who's to blame for introducing the the term "Long Tail" into the popular lexicon, has been pushing his new "big idea", the economics of free, for a long time. Basically, it sounds like he noticed a lot of stuff was being given away for free online (content, etc.) and then he went ahead and predicted that it would be the next new thing. Anywah, he starts off his latest post with:
"Here's a question I get all the time: how big is the free economy?" His friends sound more fun than ours.