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Five Things You Need to Know for Friday

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What you need to know (and what it means).

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Five things you need to know to stay ahead of the pack on Wall Street.

1. Protectionism

The recent backlash against Dubai Ports World's takeover of the management of some U.S. ports has some fearing a protectionist mindset is taking hold in the U.S. But globally there are increased signs of protectionism as well.

  • The European Union may impose tariffs because Asian sneakers are considered too cheap.
  • France recently engineered a merger between state-controlled Gaz de France and utilities group Suez to thwart a rival bid for the latter from Italian energy group Enel.
  • China recently warned steel importers not to bid up prices.
  • Argentina has announced a ban on beef exports in an effort to contain domestic inflation.
  • Spain is currently studying ways to keep German energy giant EON from buying Spanish group Endesa.
  • Meanwhile, US Congressional leaders are pressing ahead with new legislation that would give the secretary of defense and the US intelligence agencies the right to oversee acquisitions of certain US assets.
  • If governments take steps to protect their countries' businesses, international trade and investment flows could be reduced.
  • Protectionist policies make it more difficult for companies to reach new markets and reduce the velocity of capital flows.


2. OPEC Cuts Demand Outlook

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries cut its 2006 oil demand growth view by 110,000 barrels a day.

  • OPEC pegged global demand growth for the year at 1.46 million barrels per day, down from its forecast in its monthly report in February at 1.57 million bpd.
  • It attributed the downward revision to "persistent year-over-year contraction in US demand during January and February as well as a more pessimistic view of growth in non-OECD Asia."
  • The removal of government fuel subsidies in some Asian countries has hit demand there, OPEC said.
  • OPEC ministers agreed to keep output unchanged at near 25-year highs at their meeting last week.
  • An OPEC official said Thursday he expected prices to stabilize at between $50 and $60 per barrel.


3. The Retail Customer is Back

Yesterday, Charles Schwab, the largest U.S. broker said that it expected first-quarter profit to rise about 30% from the last three months of 2005, helped in part by customer stock trades that surged 52 percent in February from a year earlier.

  • Chris Dodds, Schwab's chief financial officer, said he expected first-quarter earnings to be about 30 per cent higher than in the fourth quarter of 2005.
  • Client trades averaged 319,600 per day last month, up 52 percent from the previous February.
  • Its daily average revenue trades, excluding trades it does not charge for, reached 288,000 last month.
  • In February 2003, near the bottom of the bull market that began in March 2003, these trades reached a low mark of 101,000.
  • In March 2000, they reached a high mark of 347,000.
  • Recently, E*Trade's latest financial report noted an increase to $6.5 billion in margin debt balances, 3.5% of their total client assets.


4. Just who is this St. Patrick dude, anyway?

Today marks the Catholic feast day which celebrates St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

  • Although typically considered a holiday which celebrates Irish culture, St. Patrick's Day is also a religious holiday in the season of Lent.
  • St. Patrick was a Christian missionary to Ireland who had great impact on the people through missions in Ulster and Connaught.
  • Some legends say he banished snakes from Ireland.
  • But he is largely credited with teaching the concept of the Holy Trinity using the three-leaf clover, or shamrock.
  • The first Saint Patrick's Day in the world took place in New York City on March 17, 1762, when Irish soldiers serving in the British military marched through the city.
  • Today, the largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the world is held in New York City.


5. Guinness vs. Budweiser

Conventional wisdom is that Guinness, which some consider to be the national beer of Ireland, contains far more alcohol and calories than Budweiser. It's heavier, they say, gets you drunk faster and is like a meal in and of itself. True or False?

  • A 12 ounce bottle of Bud contains 5% alcohol, 143 calories and 10.6 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Twelve ounces of Bud Light has 4.2% alcohol, 95 calories and 6.6 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Both can be turned green using dye.
  • By comparison, 12 ounces of Guinness Draft has just 4% alcohol, lower than both Budweiser and Bud Light.
  • Guinness has 125 calories, 18 fewer than Budweiser, 30 more than Bud Light.
  • Guinness has 10 grams of carbohydrates, .6 fewer than Bud, 3.4 more than Bud Light.
  • Due to its deep, black color, it is impossible to turn it green with dye.

No positions in stocks mentioned.

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