What's Important in the Financial World (8/21/2012)

Fast Corn Harvest

Farmers are bringing in corn harvests as fast as possible. The trend will not help overall supply, except in the early part of the season. The shift in harvest time, therefore, will not undercut high food prices at all over the next several months.

Reuters reports:

Four percent of the crop, which has been devastated by the worst drought in half a century, was harvested as of Sunday, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's weekly crop progress report. The report was released after Monday's grain markets, which were sharply higher, had closed.

The harvest estimate was the first of the year and earliest on record. It beat the previous record, set most recently in 2010, by two weeks.

It could be that farmers just want to stay out of the blazing August sun

George Soros and Manchester United

Several media outlets have reported that George Soros has bought about 8% of the shares in recent IPO of Manchester United Ltd. (NYSE: MANU). Soros Fund Management LLC owns 7.9% of the soccer club, which some claim is the single most valuable sports franchise in the world. The move is a puzzle, since the IPO was widely criticized as overvalued. Shares in the firm trade just above $13 against a high of $15.27. The IPO received additional attacks because most of the money went to the founding Glazer family and to pay down debt. But Soros may have decided to take the long view. Manchester United has a history as a championship team. The soccer club claims 600 million fans worldwide, though that cannot be substantiated. The club's games are, however, televised all over the world. And Manchester United has had particularly good success gaining paid sponsors.

AMR Left with One Suitor

JetBlue Airways Corp. (NASDAQ: JBLU) will not be one of the bidders for the assets of bankrupt AMR, parent of American Airlines. That does not leave the crippled airline without a suitor. U.S. Airways Group Inc. (NYSE: LCC) has repeatedly said it would like to create a "merged" company to compete with United Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE: UAL) and Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE: DAL), which have gained scale because of mergers of their own. The lack of a second bidder could bring down the price at which the assets are sold. But AMR has become more attractive since it went into Chapter 11. Aside from the traditional benefits of cuts in debt and plane leases, the firm has gotten most of its unions to agree to contracts that favor the carrier. Flight attendants recently came to an agreement, which leaves pilots as the only group not to settle. According to Bloomberg:

After being identified by AMR last month as likely to get a non-disclosure agreement, JetBlue has held no talks with the larger airline about a combination, Chief Executive Dave Barger said yesterday in an interview at Bloomberg's headquarters in New York.

"We have not received a non-disclosure agreement," he said. "We're not interested in receiving a non-disclosure agreement from American Airlines."

Douglas A. McIntyre

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Market Open Tagged: DAL, JBLU, LCC, MANU, UAL