Oil prices break a barrier

Oil prices inched down early today on profit taking after hitting $80 a barrel for the first time yesterday. Oil’s recent surge, which was caused largely by supply fears, weighed on European stocks. “Record oil prices and a falling dollar certainly don’t improve the scenario,” said Andrea Bailo of Banca MB SpA in Milan. (Bloomberg) Adjusted for inflation, oil is still cheaper than it was in 1980. But analysts say the economy, already weakened by the housing slump and mortgage defaults, will suffer if prices stay this high. “Eighty-dollar-a-barrel oil pushes us closer to a recession,” said economist Nigel Gault of Global Insight. (Los Angeles Times, free registration required)

Alcatel-Lucent stumbles

Alcatel-Lucent warned today that its annual revenue would be lower than forecast. The French-American telecommunications equipment maker blamed slow wireless spending in the U.S. (MarketWatch) But the company has been losing money to writedowns and the cost of slashing jobs since France’s Alcatel and Lucent Technologies of the U.S. merged in November. “It is crucial for the group to cut its costs or else it could go bankrupt,” said analyst Andre Chassagnol of HPC. The warning sent its stock plunging by as much as 11 percent. (AP in Yahoo! Finance)

TV drama for Web users

MySpace is teaming up with the producers of My So-Called Life and thirtysomething to launch what is being billed as the first Hollywood-produced series created for the Web. Producers Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz plan to put their series of 8-minute videos—quarterlife—on myspacetv and on their own new social-networking site starting Nov. 11. They get access to MySpace’s 110 million users and creative control they couldn’t get elsewhere. (USA Today) MySpace hopes that offering a show by people who, as one executive puts it, have “Emmys on their desks” will keep users online longer and help sell more ads. (

Tabletop football grows up

A California entrepreneur is trying to turn the makeshift kids’ game of tabletop football into big business. Richard Crasnick, a former sports agent and promoter, has replaced the folded notebook paper with a leather triangular “ball” for players to push across the table toward the goal. His company sells the balls for $8.95—$9.95 if they’re stamped with a college-team logo. Crasnick’s FIKI Sports—for “flick it and kick it”—projects revenue of $1.5 million this year. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think the paper football idea would get this far,” Crasnick said. (Los Angeles Times, free registration required)