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Opening Bell: 8.26.08

US stock futures edge higher after volatile sessions (MarketWatch)
Who knows if this will hold by the time you read it, but evidently stock futures are pointing uppish. Allow us to put on our Larry Kudlow hats for a sec and explain why: Michelle Obama didn't close the deal with America. The upshot: The market is now pricing in a John McCain victory and likes what it sees. Lower taxes, more freedom, faster growth. What other possible explanation could their be? That's right. No explanation.
Florida tops 1Q mortgage fraud list (AP)
This is not surprising... Florida is already a key location of the housing bubble. What's more, Florida tops every fraud list. Hello, Boca Raton? Clearwater? These cities are to fraud what Hungary is to Paprika. It's an industry. Plus, doesn't Florida have really lax mortgage/bankruptcy laws as it is?
Rio Tinto bolsters defences with record profits (FT)
Oh, this is still going on? Apparently so. BHP Billiton still wants to buy base metal miner Rio Tinto. And Rio Tinto is still trying to avoid it. The good news for Rio: It's doing fine on its own. The company just reported record profits, up 55 percent for the first half of the year from the year-ago period. Chairman Paul Skinner said demand from China and India bore credit for the strong results.
Big squeeze hits Chinese oil giant PetroChina (AP)
But not everyone who pulls industrially useful commodities out of the earth is doing quite as good. AP offers up a preview of PetroChina's earnings, which are expected to drop by about a third on refining losses. The report also notes that the company is no longer a $1 trillion firm... though it never really was. That was mainly a brief anomaly based on a small float in China, where shares briefly traded totally out of whack.

Hops Farmers Find Growth Business (WSJ)
You just know that this is going to end well: WSJ does a report on small, hops growers that have recently flooded the market, looking to capitalize on soaring demand and a paucity of growers (in a previous cycle, many had gone out of businesses). So people with little experience in hops, (or even agriculture) are getting into the hops game, courtesy of dreamd and some government grants. Hopefully the WSJ ollows up with these dudes in a year or two. See how it all went down.
China May Turn to Bonds to Lift Stocks, Official Says (Bloomberg)
We'll admit to not fully understanding this news. It's something having to do with China loosening bond regulations, so that companies can raise money without going to the stock market. The reason for that is that the markets have had a rough year, and they don't want new shares hitting the market. Kinda makes sense, but we still feel like China is trying to defy some law of economics here. Oh wait. Of course they are.
I blame the one child policy: explaining the brokers part II (Bronte Capital)
Interesting post form last week, discussing the Chinese proclivity towards saving. The answer: the one child policy. That and fear. Basically, argues the author, the Chinese don't have any reason to think they'll be taken care of in old age. Not from children and not from any government/business institutions (like mutual funds, IRAs, etc.). So they save like crazy. Some interesting ideas there. (via Paul Kedrosky)
Late Calving, Early Weaning Nets Higher Return (Beef)
It's pretty simple calculus when you think about it... with how much feed costs these days. You want those suckers on the ground, eating up food for as short a time as possible. Cave late! Wean Early! Profit.