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Opening Bell: 02.17.09

California Announces 20% Cut In Staff (Reuters)
California has announced it's cutting roughly 20% of its staff after failing to pass their budget, which included both cuts in spending and tax hikes. Skipping the Terminator jokes for the moment (just too easy), we should look to California to start a war: given the correlation of recession -> conflict it wouldn't be out of line to expect The Golden State to pony up and take out/reform a not-so-allie'ish state (or small foreign entity, though we'll disavow any knowledge officially.)
British Columbia would fit nicely in to the fold.
Data Hints At Slowing Of Decline (NYT)
"But recently, a handful of lesser-known indexes and indicators measuring things like overseas shipping rates and manufacturing outlooks have begun to paint a picture that, while bad, is not quite as bleak as a few months ago.
"It's too early to get excited, but I think there are a couple of green shoots that say we're not going down as heavily in the first quarter as we were in the fourth quarter," said Bruce Kasman, chief economist at JPMorgan Chase."
Wal-Mart Earnings Top Analyst Estimates (Reuters)
"Wal-Mart Stores Inc on Tuesday posted a quarterly profit that beat Wall Street expectations, helped by strong U.S. sales at its namesake discount stores.
Profit fell to $3.79 billion, or 96 cents per share, for its fiscal fourth quarter that ended January 31, from $4.096 billion, or $1.02 share, a year ago.
The company said earnings per share excluding a 7 cent charge for the settlement of class action lawsuits was $1.03 per share. Analysts, on average, had been expecting it to earn 99 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates."
UBS Sees 35% Drop In Hedge Fund Assets (Reuters)
The firm is calling for a drop in assets in hedge funds, calling the sweet spot at $1.2T end of Q1, down from the high water mark at $1.93T mid 2008.
Money Shot:
"We are gonna see a reduction in hedge fund assets, we are gonna see decline in the number of hedge funds, we are gonna see some strategies that will not work in this environment," Timothy Bell, global head of hedge funds advisory at UBS Wealth Management, told reporters in Singapore."
Soon after, Bell left the conference to make himself a nice soup from chopped up hot dogs and Stove Top stuffing.
Japan's Finance Chief Resigns For Being Hammered At G7 Press Conference (Bloomberg)
I'm not sure I can attack this with any grace: given the whole gang was back together, and under the circumstances, I'm not sure I would have handled it any differently. Maybe, maybe I would have had a junior member step into the Press for me: but who can resist cameras?
Trump Entertainment Files For Ch 11 (NYT)
"The casino operator had assets of about $2.1 billion and total debts of about $1.74 billion on Dec. 31, 2008, it said in its filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey.
Nine affiliates of the casino operator including Trump Plaza Associates, Trump Plaza Associates, Trump Marina Associates and Trump Taj Mahal Associates simultaneously sought protection, according to the filing."
Stanford Investors Head To Antigua For Redemptions (WSJ)
The run on Stanford investments continues as investors scramble for redemptions that may be contractually locked. It appears as though the CDs have provisions (similar to gates) built in to them that allow for the host firm to close redemptions should they chose.
None the less, investigations looming/ongoing - situation is fluid.

Crisis Leaves Rare Flaws in Goldman's Reputation (NYT)
Was the title not enough to test your gag reflex? Have some more:

For years, you were golden if you hired from Goldman Sachs.
Alumni of the Wall Street firm have advised presidents from both parties, taken high-profile Cabinet posts, run big businesses and been involved in multimillion-dollar philanthropies.
But recent missteps have challenged the notion that Goldman only breeds winners.
''When you become a partner at Goldman, you are supposed to be the master of the universe,'' said Ed Yardeni, who runs his own investment consulting firm and is a well-known Wall Street economist -- and himself was turned down years ago for a Goldman job.
''That meant you could run the greatest investment bank on earth, but it turns out that skill set doesn't always translate to the White House, Treasury or other Wall Street firms.''