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Opening Bell: 8.13.08

Uno Restaurant Faces `Default' Rating on Missed Bond Payment (Bloomberg)
We're not big fans of Chicago pizza, and we're definitely not big fans of chain restaurants that turn Chicago pizza into an abomination. So we can't say we're really sad to see that Pizzeria Uno seems to be falling on hard times. The company faces a "default" rating as it's elected to skip a bond payment. Not good. C'mon guys. Maybe just time to close up shop.
Russia May Turn Focus to Pro-U.S. Ukraine After Beating Georgia (Blooomberg)
Like some acquisitive corporation, everyone's wondering what Russia's next move is. Word on the street is that it's got a bone to pick with Ukraine, a nation with pro-western sympathies that would like to join NATO. No joke they'd like to join NATO. If there's one thing the battling in Georgia has done, it's clearly encouraged everyone to get their NATO applications finished and apply for early admission. And obviously the clock on Russia is ticking to get fighting, before another such invasion would trigger a global retaliation.
Japanese economy posts second-quarter contraction (AP)
Is Japan backsliding? Well, clearly the economy is getting smaller again, which usually has something to do with a recession. The numbers seem pretty staggering to -- an annualized fall of 2.4 percent, compared to growth of 4 percent. Annualized is important, since it's too early to say that that will hold up. The good news is that government officials denied the return of the "lost decade" (the 90s).
Biggest drop in U.S. oil demand in 26 years (Reuters)
Quick stat: "U.S. oil demand during the first half of 2008 fell by an average 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) compared with the same period a year ago, the biggest volume decline in 26 years, the Energy Information Administration said on Tuesday."

Record.8.Gold.Phelps (Tradesports)
Watching Michael Phelps rack up gold medals with such ease is pretty fun, though not exactly, ahem, thrilling. When you expect someone to win and win big like that, and then he does win big like that, what's to get excited about, really? That being said, we still can't get over the 4x100M relay. So will he get 8 golds? It's looking more and more likely. What would stop him. The big on Tradesports is at .65 on the dollar, but we're not sure that actually means something, since it looks like there's zilch for volume, and there's not even an ask.
In Mystery Cotton-Price Spike, Traders Hit by Swirling Forces (WSJ)
Definitely an interesting read... WSJ does its own investigation into a mysterious spike in the price of cotton earlier this year. Ultimately there were various factors that caused it, including activity from various financial players and speculators, certain rules that had gone into effect, and the end of floor trading. That last point should hearten floor trading partisans: "The next Monday, March 3, it switched to all-electronic trading, which then began at 1:30 a.m. Eastern time. Between 1:30 and 4:33 a.m., May cotton shot up three cents a pound -- the limit the futures contract could rise that day under ICE rules. When U.S. traders awoke, phone lines were soon abuzz between New York and the cotton-trading hub of Memphis, Tenn. Frantic investors wondered where the price pressure was coming from. But with no more floor traders to consult for scuttlebutt, they were in the dark." Evidently prices alone don't always convey the information folks need.
Best Buy to sell iPhone in the U.S. (Reuters)
So Best Buy the big box electronics retailer whose favorite color is yellow is going to get some iPhones to sell. The chain, which already sells some iPods, will be the first independent vendor of the phenom devices. It will be interesting to see if BBY stock moves at all on the news, which came out last night. Apple has a tradition of really putting the screws to its partners. AT&T had to lower its earnings outlook due to the new iPhone 3G terms. Hard to imagine Best Buy making any money on the devices themselves, though perhaps they're excited about a "halo effect".