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Seven Things You Need To Know

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1. Is Sushi Safe?
China has raised interest rates for the fourth time since October to help dampen inflation, the ISM fell to 57.3, more than expected, and House Republicans are going to YouTube to "slash the budget," but so what? We don't really care about all that right now. What we want to talk about is this sushi thing. "The operator of Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear plant said Tuesday that it had found radioactive iodine at 7.5 million times the legal limit in a seawater sample taken near the facility, and government officials imposed a new health limit for radioactivity in fish," according to the LA Times. While fishing has been banned near the plant and the majority of fishing activity in the region has come to a halt, the newspaper reports, some fishermen are braving the waters anyway only to find few buyers due to fears of radioactivity.

2. A Look at Mergers... How Does Global Deal Flow Stack Up?
Yesterday afternoon Texas Instruments (TXN) announced it would pay $6.5 billion for National Semiconductor (NSM). The gambit is simply that TXN thinks it can turn around its slumping sales thanks to NSM's higher margins. NSM shareholders get $25 in an all-cash transaction, a 78% premium to the April 4 closing price of $14.07, according to Bloomberg.

Around 6 PM EST every Sunday evening talk begins to bubble up about "Merger Monday" and deal flow pushing futures higher. So we're wondering, how does deal flow this year stack up to last year? And globally? Bloomberg presented a nice graphic this morning showing the details. Global deal volume by target region is up 19% for the first quarter on a year-over-year comparison while in North America it's up 55%.

3. Diamond Foods in a Cylindrical Tube
Oh yeah, in Merger Tuesday news, Diamond Foods (DMND) has agreed to buy Procter & Gamble's (PG) Pringles chip division for $1.5 billion. Diamond is looking to increase its global scale. The acquisition will double its snack sales in the U.S. and UK. For PG, offloading the Pringles operation will help the company focus on its core home and personal care businesses. (See DealBook on the, er, deal).

4. Apple's Weighting in S&P 500 Index Cut
It's no secret to anyone trading the NDX-100 (QQQ) that as goes Apple (AAPL), so goes the index. After all, Apple accounts for a whopping 20.49% of the NDX weighting. But that's about to change. As of May 2, Apple's weighting will be reduced to just 12.33%, according to NASDAQ OMX Group (NDAQ). The weightings of Microsoft (MSFT) and Cisco (CSCO) will increase to 8.32% and 3.66%, respectively, more than doubling.

As you can see below from the explanatory .pdf file available at the NASDAQ OMX Group site, there will be some slight sector rebalancing as well.

5. Hedge Fund Legend Michael Steinhardt Calls Warren Buffett "Greatest PR Person of All Time."

Hedge fund legend Michael Steinhardt, chairman of Wisdom Tree Funds, amassed annualized returns of 24% over nearly three decades. On CNBC this morning he took fellow legend Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway to task for achieving a remarkable "snow job." The remarks come at about the 7:30 mark of the video below.

Look what's happening all over, and here the biggest thing we have to worry about is how long it will take for Buffett to come down to earth where he should have been a long time ago and things like that. Until people like you begin to recognize his reality and get off some cloud. His reality is that he is the greatest PR person of recent times and he has managed to achieve a snow job that has conned virtually everyone in the press, to my knowledge, and it is remarkable that he continues to do it.

6. March Sadness
and a Prediction
Last night UConn defeated Butler 53-41, in one of the ugliest shooting matches in NCAA tournament basketball history. Butler shot 18.8% from the field for the game, but UConn was hardly much better having shot just 34.5% from the floor. Was it defense? Perhaps. But check this out... in the three NCAA Final Four tournament games played in Houston, the four teams combined to shoot 119 for 347 for 34.2%. No team made more than 23 baskets in any game.

Here is a prediction: Sometime this summer we will learn either that the official basketballs used by the NCAA in Houston were a quarter of an inch too large and manufactured to the wrong specifications or that the goals used by the NCAA were a half inch too small.

7. Pay for Play Student Athletes?

Speaking of the NCAA tournament, The Economist Free exchange blog takes a look at whether it makes sense to finally start paying student athletes. The usual pay-for-play arrangements are discussed... pay them as employees of the university, establish minor league teams, etc. The arrangements each have their own drawbacks; the pay-for-play could give larger, elite universities an advantage, do only basketball and football players get paid? What about lacrosse players.... you know the drill.

One idea that doesn't get much play, however, is what you might call the University Student Athlete Shared Trust plan. Essentially, players would receive a living wage while in school (since they are not allowed to have student jobs) and share in trust profits from money earned within their respective programs for tournament appearances, licensing and merchandising sales and possibly endorsements. Players who leave early to sign a professional contract would forfeit their trust earnings unless/until they return to school to graduate. Just thinking out loud.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.