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A Steaming Tub of Macke


"You want to stick that metal-detector wand WHERE?!"


I'm blasting through emails, phone calls, my sense of W-related dread, travel bookings, the tape and the newsflow in an orgy of ADD-self-indulgence prior to business travels commencing this afternoon. If the tape were actually doing anything I could really be feeling flustered.

Wal-Mart (WMT): Not Welcome in Queens; Surly about it.

Wal-Mart continues to be the only organism on earth that can make me look camera shy, raising the volume on their snarling to 11+ just in the time since last I mentioned their mood.

Today's news that Vornado Realty Trust (VNO) is no longer planning to build NYC's first Wal-Mart in NYC (to have been located in Queens) is the latest crimp in Bentonville's under-ma-pants. The effort was purportedly thwarted by protests of local unions and consumer groups. Two big thoughts on this:

First: At some point you have to wonder why these communities aren't questioning the motives of those trying to "save" them. Queens' victory has secured the right of the locals to pay $5 for a 12-Pack of Coke. Is this really a cause for dancing in the streets?

Second: Before you Google (GOOG) Vornado to see why they sound familiar, yeah, those are the same guys involved in the Sears (S) / K-Mart (KMRT) merger, via their 4% stake in S. (As noted in the Buzz at the time of the deal, and worth mentioning again, Vornada created that 4% stake via calls, for the most part.)

Thickening the plot, the Heard on the Street in today's WSJ notes rumors that Vornado may actually oppose the Kmart / Sears deal in favor of pursuing the company in some combination with: a hedge fund, Target (TGT) or a "cabal of 12 mystery men who control all the world's financial markets".

If you're a cynic, a developer that deeply involved with Wal-Mart's competition suddenly knuckling under to long-standing "pressure" is the kind of thing that makes you go "Hmmm". If you're Wal-Mart, it's more apt to make you swear loudly then break something. Or buy some airtime.

The most bullish fact for Wal-Mart, the stock (still hanging below the $52 support broken yesterday), may be the near-constant reporting of their woes. For more on Wal-Mart see THIS from, THIS from the New Yorker. Minyans can voice their opinions at THIS somewhat undernuanced survey.

Just Another Prickly Face?

Always-generous Minyan Herb Greenberg is giving the 'Ville (and others) some props at today.

Todd-O: "Imaginative!"

Collins: "Prolific!"

Succo: "Rocket Scientist!"

Reamer: Ever Steady!

Macke: "Prickly."

I suppose I can take solace in the fact that he thought to include the last two letters...

"Keaton was a cop. To a cop the explanation's always simple. There's no mystery to the street, no arch criminal behind it all. If you find a body and you think his brother did it, you're gonna find out you're right." - Verbal Kint

Oil is $51.25. Which of the below offers the most logical explanation?:

A) George Soros hates W. so much that he's still pushing up the price of crude to make Bush look bad.

B) OPEC has any more control over the suggested (already broken) 2005 range of "$40- 50 per barrel" price target than they did last year when something with a 2-handle was "correct".

C) Hedge funds. Anything bad is always the work of evil hedge funds.

D) Somewhere around this price is about where "supply" is meeting "demand".

It's not about inflation or deflation, it's about "profitless".

To the extent that I pay attention to CPI and PPI (a much lesser extent than when I ran the fund), I'm not sure about that thesis of "markets breathing a sigh of relief" in response to a light CPI.

Higher prices to produce... no end market pricing power... that's a "bad" combination but not one that can be wrapped tightly in an "Inflation" or "deflation" box, which is why you don't see folks talking about it more.

Yahoo (YHOO) and Google (GOOG) are getting smacked today because Jordan Rohan (who I respect) says they are losing pricing power.

To which a surly Wal-Mart may offer "Welcome to our personal hell".

With those cheering thoughts, I'm off to the glamorous world of business travel. Four flights in 30-odd hours... guess I picked the wrong week to try to quit being Prickly.

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