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Best Business Commentary
February 4, 2008
Micro-hoo! and Web 2.0’s first slump
The proposed Microsoft-Yahoo! merger signals “the first economic slowdown of the Web 2.0 era,” says Daniel Gross in Slate. Such “aggressive takeovers” usually take place near the optimistic top of a business cycle or “after a bust.” But combined with Amazon’s takeover of Audible-dot-com—to diversify from downturn-vulnerable retail—and Google’s somewhat disappointing quarter, this looks like a different environment. Following declines in sectors from homebuilding to department stores, the trend is not surprising. But after years of defying gravity, “best of breed technology companies” are finally showing that they’re not immune to “the brick wall of the business cycle.”
Bonds that tie
The Fed is hardly “the most important factor in moving the markets” these days, says The Economist in an editorial. The real action is swirling around bond insurers. Why? Simply put, “their failure would represent another lurch down in the credit crunch.” Even a downgrade in their top-notch credit rating would cause a “vicious spiral.” Banks, which stand to lose up to $10 billion if the bond insurers hit the skids, will probably “run the numbers” and find that pumping money into the insurers will be less expensive. And there will be “a degree of irony” when those troubled banks “have to instantly turn from damsels in distress to knights in shining armor.”
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