Under The Radar News - Monday

by: SA Eli Hoffmann

Insiders think market has bottomed. Insider buying exceeded insider selling in January for the first time since 1995. The last seven times this happened, the S&P 500 rallied an average of 21% over the next 12 months. Total purchases exceeded sales by a factor of 1.44. Meanwhile short-selling on the NYSE hit 3.7% of all shares, the highest since at least 1931.

Home equity loan defaults soar. Buried deep in Countrywide's (CFC) earnings release was the news that home equity lines of credit have begun to rapidly deteriorate. One estimate says Q4 mortgage equity withdrawals totaled $145B. If HELOC defaults result in stricter lending standards, it's likely one-third of that, or $50B, will disappear from the economy.

SWF liquidity. After pumping at least $80B into financials, energy companies may be the next stop for sovereign wealth funds' estimated $2T stash. Due to their massive size, SWFs could deploy huge amounts of cash into companies like ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), Chevron (NYSE:CVX) and ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) without reaching significant stakes.

Layoffs surge. U.S. corporations made 74,986 job reductions last month, up 69% from December's 44,416 and 19% from a year ago. The financial sector was responsible for more than 20% of the layoffs.

Iona in informal discussions. Sources in London say there is strong speculation that an interested party has initiated informal talks with infrastructure software developer Iona Technologies (IONA).

Expensive visitors. In terms of new U.S. unique visitors, a Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) acquisition only grows Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) existing visitor base by 31% (37 million people) -- meaning its $44.6B bid values each new visitor at $1,186.

Sales staff to abandon Yahoo. Sources say a good chunk of Yahoo's (YHOO) sales team will leave the company next month, after receiving 2007 bonuses, notwithstanding Microsoft's (MSFT) buyout offer.

Yahoo buys FoxyTunes. Besides selling its Music Unlimited service to RealNetworks (NASDAQ:RNWK) and Viacom (NYSE:VIA), Yahoo (YHOO) also bought FoxyTunes, a browser plug-in that features online music and lyrics search.

Chinalco's $120B war chest. In preparation for a battle with BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP) over Rio Tinto (RTP), the Chinese government has put a $120B "war chest" at Chinalco's (NYSE:ACH) disposal.

Altria to buy UST? There is a decent chance that Altria (NYSE:MO) will acquire UST (NYSEARCA:UST), Goldman Sachs says. Others are not so sure.

Boeing shuffles execs to make sure Dreamliner gets done. Boeing (NYSE:BA) is shaking things up at its defense systems unit, including moving two key executives to the 787 Dreamliner project, to make sure the much-awaited plane suffers no more setbacks.

iPhone: Ambassador to the world. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has only sanctioned iPhone use in four countries — the U.S., the U.K., Germany and France. But the device has a presence in almost every country on earth. While only 0.19% of all American's are using iPhones, in Equatorial Guinea 11.54% have adapted Apple's new blockbuster.

PS3 lite. Despite the rumors of 120GB and 160GB PS3s (NYSE:SNE), sources say different strategies are under consideration and nothing is final. Others say rumors of a 'slim and lite' Playstation 3 may have some foundation.

Electronic Arts rates consoles: Video game developer Electronic Arts (ERTS) says Sony's (SNE) PS3 will finally pass Microsoft's (MSFT) Xbox 360 in unit sales this year, but Nintendo's (OTCPK:NTDOY) Wii will continue to outdo them both. Its numbers: Xbox 360: 6-8 million units; PS3: 9.5-11.5 million; Wii: 12-14 million.

E*Trade insiders go long. E*Trade (NASDAQ:ETFC) insiders are stepping up to the plate to buy shares in the company after its recent battering, which may indicate they think the bad news has already been priced in.

eBay price changes enrage sellers. eBay's (NASDAQ:EBAY) veteran sellers are furious with its latest fee changes.

Imax to expand. Imax (NYSE:IMAX) plans to open scores of cinema screens in Europe and China.

Microsoft is bluffing on patents. Microsoft's (MSFT) aggressive defense of its intellectual property, including claims that Linux violates a number of its patents, is simply a marketing ploy, Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux kernel, says.