Oracle boosts spirits

Oracle Corp. shares surged late yesterday after the business software maker's quarterly earnings trounced expectations, easing fears of a tech slowdown. Some analysts, however, said Oracle simply outsmarted the competition. (AP in Yahoo! Finance) CEO Larry Ellison's "strategy of making all those acquisitions was right on the money," said Pacific Crest Securities analyst Brendan Barnicle (The New York Times, free registration). Also, Ellison's stake in his software venture NetSuite ballooned to $1 billion as NetSuite raised the target price for today's IPO to $26 a share, up from an initial range of $13 to $16. (

Empty stockings at Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley Chief Executive John Mack said he was giving up his holiday bonus after his firm was forced to take $9.4 billion in writedowns from bad bets on securities backed by mortgages. And he probably won't be the only Wall Street leader to lose tens of millions in holiday cash. Bear Stearns reports big quarterly losses today, and its top executives may forego their bonuses, too, The Wall Street Journal reported. (The Washington Post, free registration) Morgan Stanley shares got a lift despite its bad news after it announced a $5 billion investment from China. (AP in Yahoo! Finance)

Splurging on iPhones

Americans spent 40 percent more on mobile phones last quarter compared to a year earlier. Asian and European consumers have been shelling out hundreds of dollars for their handsets for years, but it took the release of Apple's iPhone and Research in Motion's Blackberry e-mail phones to get U.S. shoppers used to the idea, said analyst Carolina Milanesi of Gartner Inc. "The iPhone has made the U.S. consumer appreciate the value of the mobile phone," Milanesi said. (Bloomberg)

Knifing Frosty

Feuds are breaking out across America between homeowners who illuminate their lawns with holiday decorations and seething neighbors who see the displays as wasteful and annoying. Sales of seasonal decorations jumped by 9 percent between 2004 and 2006 to $16 billion. Police report a rising number of stabbings targeting giant inflatable Santas and snowmen—the fastest growing decoration category. "They've got Jesus next to Santa, and Mary with the elves," said Kat Shumar of Indianapolis. "It's just tacky." (The Wall Street Journal)