We at Reuters have tried our best to cover the collapse of Bear Stearns in a clear, informative and, yes, even entertaining fashion. But apparently we and our competitors in the financial press are falling short. From The Onion:
American farmers are chilling on planting corn, or at least Monday’s USDA data points to a backlash against the overplanting of corn in 2007. So does this mean the ethanol promise is beginning to fade?
Low price retailers appear to be in. The top performing stock in the first quarter among components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, through Friday, was Wal-Mart, with a 9.66 percent gain — one of only five stocks up in the index.
Pernod Ricard chief Patrick Ricard could probably use a drink. Having won a hard-fought auction to buy the maker of Sweden’s Absolut vodka in a 5.63 billion euro ($8.87 billion) deal, its shares fell on concerns over the price. The world’s second-largest wine and spirits company outbid the favorite, Jim Beam bourbon maker Fortune Brands. Half of all Absolut is sold in the United States. Fortune said it would begin buying back shares and planned to continue a U.S. distribution arrangement for Absolut.
As I drive across northern Illinois and Iowa, the heart of the U.S. Corn Belt, during the last week of March it’s hard to believe the planting season is just a few weeks away. Rivers are swollen, fields are flooded and there’s a dusting of snow. Undoubtedly, planting will be the focus of U.S. grain traders in the coming weeks with Monday’s USDA planting intentions report to kick off the season. The grain trade has been waiting for this report for months.
Check out the warning from J.C. Penney.
The retailer slashed its first-quarter earnings forecast and said Easter sales were well below expectations.
That may be a pretty good snapshot of where the American economy is right now. J.C. Penney says half of American families are its customers and those families are under pressure from higher energy costs, a deteriorating job market, the housing downturn and the credit crunch.
Not much news there. But according to J.C. Penny’s forecast, things are much worse than the company thought.
The warning comes the same week Williams-Sonoma Chief Executive Howard Lester said the economic environment was probably the worst he’s seen in the 30 years he has been in the business.
Oh, and Lester added this cheery note:
“We believe there are circumstances under which it could get progressively worse, particularly if we find ourselves in a protracted recession.”
Also in the basket:
Cash-rich retailers stand to gain in credit crunch
Li & Fung’s 3-Year Plan: Sourcing Giant Aiming For $20 Billion in Sales (WWD)
Office Depot Holder Group files proxy statement
If Jimmy Cayne’s investments are anything to go by, Bear Stearns is unlikely to get a higher bid. Bear’s chairman sold his entire stake in the company for $61 million according to a filing on Thursday afternoon. That’s a lot of bridge tournament entry fees, but nowhere near the $1 billion that the 5.66 million shares would have been worth last year, when Bear’s stock peaked at over $170. JPMorgan agreed earlier this week to increase its original bid for Bear Stearns. Some investors, hoping JPMorgan Chase would increase its bid again or that Bear would find another buyer, pushed the bank’s stock up to $11.23, about 20 percent above the current value of JPMorgan’s offer. Cayne would have as clear a view as anyone if a higher bid were likely, so his actions speak volumes.