Monday, December 18, 2006

Today's Headlines

- Confidence among US homebuilders fell slightly in December for the first time in three months, however the sales expectations component of the index rose again.
- Statoil ASA’s offer to buy Norsk Hydro ASA’s energy unit and Express Scripts’(ESRX) bid for Caremark Rx(CMX) led more than $75 billion of takeovers announced today, capping a record year for mergers and acquisitions.
- Crude oil fell more than $1/bbl. this morning as warmer-than-normal weather in most of the US curbed heating-fuel consumption and damped near-record speculation by investment funds.
- Natural gas is falling another 4% to the lowest in more than seven weeks in NY as near-record inventories and mild weather curb near-record speculation by investment funds.
- Biomet(BMET) agreed to be acquired for $10.9 billion by a private equity group including Blackstone Group and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners.
- Shaw Group(SGR) shares rose as much as 17% after China selected a team that included the company for the biggest international nuclear reactor contract in history.
- Home Depot(HD) said investor Ralph Whitworth wants independent directors to study “strategic alternatives” and evaluate CEO Nardelli’s performance.
- Apollo Management LP agreed to buy Realogy Corp., the owner of Century 21 and Coldwell Banker real-estate brokers, for $6.6 billion in another sign the US housing slump may have touched bottom.
- Traffickers are increasingly using Venezuela to export illegal drugs to the US, citing William Brownfield, the US ambassador to Venezuela. In the past five years, the volume of illegal drugs shipped to the US after touching Venezuelan soil has soared 1,000% to as much as 300 metric tons a year. Brownfield said Venezuela’s decision to break a drug-control accord with the US Drug Enforcement Administration led to the surge.
- World steel production surged 10% in November to 104.2 million metric tons, led by a 24% jump in China’s production, the International Iron and Steel Institute said.
- “Blood Diamond,” the new Leonardo DiCaprio movie about gems-for-weapons dealing in war-torn Sierra Leone during the 1990s, may hurt Christmas sales of diamonds, according to an author who has written a book about the issue.
- Iraq resumed pumping oil through the Kirkuk pipeline to Turkey last night, adding 300,000 bpd to production.

Wall Street Journal:
- China agreed to let Nasdaq Stock Market(NDAQ) and NYSE Group(NYX) expand their operations in the country.
- US big-truck sales may drop sharply next year because sales in 2006 have been artificially boosted by environmental regulations that will raise prices starting next month.
- Attributor Corp. started testing a system that can scan billions of Internet pages for audio, video, images and text and make it easier to find when copy is being used without authorization.
- Verizon Communications(VZ) and AT&T(T) plan high-speed cable links to Asia to handle the growing volume of intercontinental Internet and telephone traffic.
- Google’s(GOOG) earnings growth may slow as the California-based Internet-search service’s interest income drops.
- News Corp.(NWS) will say today that it’s starting a service to enable customers of Cingular Wireless LLC to view its MySpace social-networking site on their mobile phones.

NY Times:
- NBC Universal, News Corp., Viacom Inc. and possibly CBS Corp. are close to announcing a venture that would rival Google’s(GOOG) YouTube in distributing videos on the Internet.
- Air America, Piquant LLC’s bankrupt liberal talk radio network, has received a bid from a group including two original investors and an unidentified media partner.
- Comcast Corp.(CMCSK) is testing a program to supply films on demand when they’re released in DVD format.

Financial Times:
- Sony Corp.(SNE) plans to start a video downloading service for its PlayStation Portable in the first quarter of 2007, challenging Apple Computer’s(AAPL) i-Tunes downloading service for its iPod player.

Les Echos:
- The “rapid” rise of the euro is “bad for the economy,” French Finance Minister Thierry Breton said.

Containerisation International:
- The world’s shipping lines charged less to move containers in the three months ended September, as new vessels entering the fleet boosted capacity.
- EBay(EBAY) will announce a merger of its China Web site with Tom Online this week.

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