Friday, August 27, 2010

GDP and 3Par

Second Quarter GDP growth was revised downward from an initial estimate of 2.4% to 1.6%. Economists were anticipating a larger downward revision to 1.3%, so the market is breathing a sigh of relief at the moment. It has moved on to bigger and better things, such as Ben Bernanke's upcoming speech, but more importantly, the exciting bidding war between HP and Dell over 3Par.

You know the market is grasping at straws when a $1.8 billion merger war over a company that nobody outside of Silicon Valley had ever heard of a few weeks ago is plastered all over the front page of the financial press. Moments ago Hewlett-Packard topped Dell's bid (again), by the way. Analysts are struggling to make sense of the valuation, but at this point, who really cares? The feeding frenzy over this company is beginning to rival the Sotheby's auction of the Giacometti "Walking Man I" back in February. Sure it's a neat sculpture and all, but really, $104.5 million? Ok, it's three times taller than the "Toppling Man" that sold for $19.3 million last November. But even the optimistic art lovers at Sotheby's were shocked by the final sales price. Don't those rich folks have better things to do with their cash?

Therein lies the rub. The folks at the Fed are desperately trying to goose the economy with super easy monetary policy. When banks can borrow at zero percent, but they are refusing to lend to lousy credits, they buy Treasuries. As the economy remains sluggish, firms refrain from expanding payrolls and increasing costs, so they look for other ways to generate growth. So they get into ridiculous bidding wars over the few companies out there that are in growth industries. The irony is that even though Wall Street might love M&A because of the fees, M&A isn't exactly a growth engine for the economy. M&A frenzies, particularly dumb deals, typically happen at market tops. After all, what is the first thing that happens when a company buys another one? Layoffs. I mean "synergies." How's that gonna get GDP on the right track?

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