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The Biz Roundup January 5

When you think about it, this is good news for mechanics and tow truck companies . . .

The nation’s six largest automakers all reported December sales declines of more than 30% Monday, capping the industry’s worst year since 1992.Of the major automakers, Chrysler LLC took the biggest hit in December. Sales fell 53% from year-ago levels, worse than the 46% drop forecast by sales tracker

(“Auto sales plunge again in December,” CNNMoney, January 5) We hear a whole lot about the market rebounding in six months, one year, or whatever. What I’d like to see is how companies are positioned for the pent-up demand that these low sales numbers represent. For me the most interesting question is: what are people going to buy once they have the wherewithal or the confidence to replace their old clunker? Here’s the rub: quite a few people are going to take their current autos several tens of thousands of miles and many repairs further than they intended. How is that going to affect their perception of the value of new car brands?

These have got to be the world’s most expensive hormones, at least as far as Apple investors are concerned.

Thanks to the CIA-grade secrecy that surrounds all goings-on at Apple, the rumor mill always works overtime just prior to any scheduled Apple event. This year, with the recent surprise announcement that CEO Steve Jobs would not be keynoting at the annual Macworld Expo on Monday, there’s even more prognostication and persiflage to cut through. . . .

On Monday, Jobs released a statement debunking the fears about his health. “I have been losing weight throughout 2008. The reason has been a mystery to me and my doctors,” he said in the statement. “After further testing, my doctors think they have found the cause — a hormone imbalance that has been ‘robbing’ me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy.”

(“Dispatches from the Steve Jobs Rumor Mill,” Time, Jan 5) Makes sense. The way Apple stock has been up, down, and all around, it looks like the stock itself is a victim of raging hormones. Anyway, you have to love Apple’s board saying, “If there ever comes a day when Steve wants to retire or for other reasons cannot continue to fulfill his duties as Apple’s chief executive, you will know it.” When you’ll know it, of course, is another matter. Remember “Weekend At Bernies”?

And the tax cut winners are . . .

The main business tax cuts proposed by President-elect Barack Obama are likely to be a windfall for two industries particularly tied to the current economic meltdown: Wall Street investment banks and home builders.

Under the proposal being crafted by the incoming Obama administration and congressional Democrats, companies would be able to use their so-called tax losses to offset taxable U.S. profits earned in the past five years.

(“Write-Offs Would Help Companies Hit Hardest,” Wall Street Journal, Jan 5) Why is it that everything Obama does is just so, well, frigging competent? Tax cuts to the businesses hardest hit in the recession? We’ve all been trained by the Bush Administration to think of everthing the government does as just a few yards south of retarded. And now, just like that, government is smart again? Who’d've thunk?

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