THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: The Week in Review: "Big Oil Goes Hunting": "Possible bidders include Royal Dutch Shell, Total and industry leader Exxon Mobil.": Saturday 17 December 2005
Inscrutable to the End
The Fed raised interest rates for the 13th consecutive time, pushing the target rate to 4.25% while offering an ambiguous message on future plans. A change in the language accompanying the move led investors to believe the Fed was almost done raising rates -- as a result, Treasury bond yields and the dollar declined and stocks rose. But the Fed's vague language may have been a way of giving a free hand to Ben Bernanke, the nominee to replace Alan Greenspan as Fed chairman. Next meeting: Jan. 31, scheduled to be Greenspan's last.
Win, Lose and Now Draw
Merck's third Vioxx trial ended in mistrial. The drug maker is being charged with liability for heart attacks blamed on the painkiller, and the latest case was viewed as the weakest yet -- the victim had taken Vioxx less than a month and had other risk factors. But a lone holdout hung the jury, and the trial will be rescheduled. Merck lost the first Vioxx case and won the second; faced with 7,000 lawsuits, it still says it has no plans to settle. Moving on: Merck unveiled two new cholesterol drugs and an austerity program, which sent shares higher.
An Admission and an Election
President Bush took responsibility for leading the nation to war partly based on inaccurate intelligence. Bush continued to defend the invasion, saying the world is safer without Saddam Hussein, and said he would fix the intelligence problems. The speech was part of a campaign to improve Bush's sagging popularity numbers, which seem to be stabilizing. This may help: Millions of Iraqis -- including Sunnis in large numbers -- went to the polls in one of the freest elections ever in the Arab world.
Big Oil Goes Hunting
ConocoPhillips's $35 billion purchase of Burlington Resources may start a run on cash-rich energy companies snapping up smaller natural-gas producers. While some questioned the cost, ConocoPhillips is betting natural gas prices -- now near all-time highs -- will remain high. This logic makes targets out of other midsize and smaller companies with North American gas holdings. Possible bidders include Royal Dutch Shell, Total and industry leader Exxon Mobil.
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