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Japan Airlines Flies Into Sunset

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The world in your hands: an overnight, overseas update.

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American fliers, beset by friskings from hell at the airport and ever-increasing bird strikes on board, have it easy. In Tokyo trading today, Japan Airlines plunged 45%, Asia's largest carrier losing almost $1 billion of market value as a delisting and bankruptcy become essentially inevitable. The shares stand at record lows after falling by the daily maximum amount allowable, even as the broader Nikkei Index rose almost 1% to end above 10,800 for the first time since October of '08. In the memorable phrase of a money manager interviewed by Bloomberg, each of JAL's 1.6 million retail investors just "lost his kimono."

Against this backdrop, American Airlines parent AMR Corp (AMR) is increasing its offer of investment in the beleaguered company, less out of compassion than a desire to stop rival Delta Air Lines (DAL) from feasting on the carcass. This story has a political as well as economic angle, as Japan's new government is set to abandon the multiple bailout mantra of its predecessors and allow the nation's largest-ever insolvency. If only Uncle Sam were as content to let the market work its magic unimpeded, however messy that may be.

If the Indian who answers to the name of Sally Ann appears especially helpful today as she troubleshoots your technology from 8,000 miles away, there's a reason. Outsourcing outfit Infosys Technologies (INFY) reported earnings overnight that handily exceeded expectations, sending its shares and those of peers Tata Consultancy and Wipro (WIT) sharply higher. While any revival in offshoring won't be welcomed by American workers, it could be further reason to invest in under-appreciated India. Hard to believe, given the far greater column inches afforded China in '09, but Bombay's benchmark Sensex Index ended up 81% last year, versus the Shanghai Composite's paltry 80% increase.

Staying with the two Asian tigers, Beijing just sent another signal it will raise rates to reign in growth, a policy India may soon have to adopt based on the breakneck industrial output announced early this morning.

And finally, Cadbury (CBY) is out with a robust set of full-year results, including an above-consensus 11% increase in revenue. In the eyes of its Chairman, this makes Kraft's (KFT) $16.9 billion takeover bid even more "unattractive" than was the case with December's "derisory" offer. Strong language, yes, but I can't help but think that the soon-to-be-idle Brit of American Idol could spice up its attacks.

No positions in stocks mentioned.
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