Under The Radar News - Friday

by: SA Eli Hoffmann

Seat search. Sources say Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has been feeling out potential Silicon Valley candidates for seats on Yahoo's (YHOO) board if it chooses to go ahead with a proxy battle. "Given the loyalty to a Silicon Valley icon like Yahoo," it is unclear whether Microsoft's effort will meet with success.

Muni issues slip. Muni bond issuance is down about 33% to $30 from a year ago according to a report from Merrill Lynch. Due to investors current aversion to insured offerings, only about 15% of deals have carried insurance. One journalist remarks: "If muni bonds got the ratings they deserve, we wouldn't need to bail out the bond insurers. We wouldn't need bond insurers at all."

Emerging market strength won't help most U.S. firms. "The backdrop for U.S. global earnings is rapidly deteriorating, a situation that could lead to disappointing, weaker-than-expected U.S. earnings this year," Bank of America strategist Joe Quinlan says. He notes that while emerging-markets growth remains strong, only a "thin slice" of corporate America can hope to translate that strength into earnings growth.

Cramer contract spooks TheStreet.com. Shares of TheStreet.com (TSCM) continued to slip after yesterday's earnings conference call. It appears investors were taken aback by CEO Tom Clarke's comment that Jim Cramer's contract is set to expire on April 15, after being extended twice -- which suggest a "drawn-out negotiation process." The company also noted the current economic environment "has grown more challenging over the past few months, and there is great uncertainty as to how weak economic conditions might become and the impact this might have on our advertisers, subscribers and visitors to our network of sites." After yesterday's 8.4% drop, shares are off another 3.3% to $10.12 in pre-market trading.

Google weakness may not be over. An ad industry source says Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) may be looking at a rough coming two quarters. Google is "far more exposed" to a U.S. recession than people realize. ROI on ads could fall as consumers spend less, leading to less-enthusiastic marketers. Then again, it could also lead to more aggressive advertising.

RIM mystery. Given Research In Motion's (RIMM) 15-20% raised subscriber guidance, while leaving revenue estimates in tact, it seems likely the projected unit growth is coming at the expense of heavy discounts and/or lower-end plans.

Latest Apple patent 'surfaces.' A new Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) patent describes a large touch-based system designed to be used with both hands simultaneously. Perhaps a competitor to Microsoft's delayed Surface?

Vodafone bets on India. Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) CEO Arun Sarin hopes an aggressive move into India, "one of the last big frontiers in the global cellphone business," will help turbo-charge his company's shares. With a 56% sales increase in its most recent quarter, early signs are positive.

FCC OKs News/Liberty stake swap. Although it hasn't been announced, a majority of FCC commissioners have approved News Corp.'s (NASDAQ:NWS) swap of its 41% stake in DirecTV (NYSE:DTV) to Liberty Media (LCAPA), in exchange for which Liberty will give NWS its 16% voting stake in News Corp.

No deal with Micron - Nanya. Nanya Technology spokespeople deny a Reuters story saying it has signed a memorandum of understanding to form a tech licensing JV with Micron (NASDAQ:MU) involving 68nm, 1GB technology at Nanya's new fab. They conceded Nanya has spoken with Micron, but insist nothing has been formalized.

Starwood looks for growth down under. Starwood Hotels & Resorts (HOT) will establish at least 30 hotels/year in China over the coming three years, in the hopes Asian strength can help it overcome U.S. economic weakness.

Groceries on the cheap. A growing number of shoppers are abandoning traditional grocers like Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE:WMT) and Kroger (NYSE:KR) in favor of no-frills discounters such as SharpShopper and SuperValu's (NYSE:SVU) Save-A-Lot.