Opening Bell: 10.24.08

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U.S. stock futures blasted after Asia plunge (Marketwatch)
U.S. futures are getting smashed up this morning after a nightmare trading session in the Asian markets (see next article). Dow futures are off 546 points, while Nasdaq futures are falling 82.5 points; S&P futures are down 60 points, at 855.20. There's a lot of technical analysis that says the S&P has to hit 800 before we see a decent rebound; more and more, that's looking the right analysis. That said, with the extent of this selloff, and the huge volatility, the potential for short squeezing has never looked so ominous or looming. Opec cut production by a whopping 1.5million barrels a day, not that that's likely to have a huge effect: once a commodity market enters freefall, there's little stopping it.
Tokyo, Seoul Head Asian Market Train Wreck (CNBC.com)
The overnight dealer notes from Hong Kong were all broadly disbelieving of the last-minute rally in the Dow yesterday ... and those sentiments couldn't have been proved more right. The Nikkei plummeted 9.6%, to 7649.08, more than a five-year low. The yen hit a 13-year high vs. the dollar, at around 91 yen. South Korea's Kospi was off more than 10%, while everything else in Asia pretty much went belly-up too. Although it looks like a U.S.-led thing, much of the Asian mauling is really more to do with the yen than anything else.
Greenspan Concedes Error on Regulation (NYT)
In a dramatic and humbling mea culpa yesterday, the former fed chairman admitted he was "shocked" by the mess we now find ourselves in, and that he may have got it wrong a little bit with regard to regulation. It's refreshing to see someone being honest right now, rather than blaming the market, the short speculators, the regulators, the homeowners, or whoever else is possibly in the firing line. It makes you think, actually, that he's the only guy round who stands a chance of fixing the problem ... given that half of it seems to have been in saying "we have a problem" in the first place.
German banks overexposed in Iceland (Daily Telegraph)
It turns out that the counter-parties hardest hit by Iceland's recent banking turmoil are German banks, which are owed $21 billion. That's around a third of Iceland's $75 billion debt. German banks are having a hard time; it was also a major lender to both Spain and Ireland, which have been pretty badly beaten up in the credit crunch. These announcements could not have come on a worse day, either.
Sony Blames Profit Warning on Yen, Weak Demand (Business Week)
A lot of the Asian market selloff was down to a surprise announcement by Sony that its earnings would fall 58% on the year, to $2.04 billion, by March 2009. The article explains that Sony sees the higher yen harming sales. It's not really the harm in sales that's the issue here however, but more the margin on exports, which is just wiped away when the yen's sitting up in the 90's.
Microsoft earnings beat the Street (NYT)
Microsoft is turning out to be a bit of a contrary indicator. When times are rolling, the software giant is lagging ... but now that things are in somewhat of a death spiral, earnings are up. Still, only just, a 48 cents a share vs. 47 cents a share. That's the advantage of a monopoly: it's almost recession-proof by default. After all, everyone still needs MS Word, if only to polish their resumes while they look for a new employer.

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