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Exxon Goes Green


Oil giant takes on for Nature.


Greetings from New York where I can't speak for the other 12-million or so Americans who saw Indiana Jones over the weekend but I'd like a refund. Not for the ticket price but for the "guy chips" I sacrificed by taking Mrs. Macke to the flick with me. She's not an "action flick" gal, so I knew I was taking a chance, but I was counting on a certain amount of Spielberg/ Lucas mass-appeal to get me through the film unscathed. Alas, before the end of the first reel I knew I had condemned myself to a Chick Flick give back by dragging her to the latest installment of this tired series.

The sequence was this: Indiana survived being at ground zero during an atomic bomb test by locking himself in a refrigerator; the wife looked at her watch (roughly 5 minutes had expired) and my movie experience was ruined. The "she's bored senseless by the movie I picked and I agree" feeling is a killer. Not that my experience could have survived much longer. The movie drags on forever, the plot is sci-fi and all the actors' faces are frozen rock-solid by Botox except Shia LaBeouf, whose face is frozen by whatever froze Anakin Skywalker's face in the latest Star Wars efforts.

Here's what I'm watching while bracing myself for Sex in the City:

  • Exxon Mobil (XOM) showing up on Prof. Shartis' screens as put/ call ratio short and my screens as a common-sense failure. As detailed in today's New York Times and elsewhere, XOM is making moves to appease the Rockefeller family. The heirs to JD Rockefeller would like to see Exxon increase spending on money-losing green initiatives. Curiously, the world's largest oil company is listening. It's not the spending itself which gives me pause, it's the distraction of appeasing shareholders (regardless of their misguided leftist politics).

  • While I'd love to shout-down the gas price impact on spending notion I think prices at the pumps are, in fact, a real concern. It's not the absolute price but the rate of change facing consumers. Whether or not consumers can afford both $4 per gallon and luxury goods is an academic question; the real problem is that consumers simply won't afford both. When a consumer feels poor he gets alligator-arms (can't reach the pockets). Gas going up a nickel a week makes people feel poor.

  • SABMiller (SAB: London) traded 7% higher today on rumors that it, not Budweiser (BUD) could be a target for Belgium's INBev. The odd thing from a trading perspective is that Bud is hanging on to most of Friday's gains on the same rumor. I don't much know about INBev but I rather doubt it's going to roll up both the number one and number two beer companies.

  • I understand the bearish case on Lehman (LEH) et al but the truth is investing in the big financials is always a leap of faith in terms of balance sheet risk. You never know what's under the hood. The financials are a trade, ever and always. Right now, it looks like the bears are setting up for another "buying opportunity" of some note.

  • One day into the unofficial Summer Trading Season and I'm about ready for Labor Day.
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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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