News Column

Personal Finance: A 2008 to Remember

February 1, 2008

By: Rick Munarriz

I know we're just dipping our toes into February, but it's hard to argue that 2008 won't be remembered as a year with huge financial headlines.

Friday's news? Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) agreed to buy Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) in a cash and stock deal initially worth $31 a share. It would be a headline for the ages, but it has competition after a January that saw the Federal Reserve aggressively lower rates not once, but twice.

You also had some shockers during earnings season. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) have been market darlings for years, routinely hitting the ball out of the proverbial park every three months. Well, what are the chances that they would both disappoint investors in the same quarter? It happened in January.

Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) has been the gold standard in retail over the past decade? The market doesn't care. The CEO was let go last month and now the company is retreating on its plans to add breakfast sandwiches beyond its test markets.

In fact, if you decided to take a month-long nap just as Dick Clark was counting down the final seconds of 2007, you would find yourself waking up in an entirely different world. Warren Buffett is buying stakes in railroad operators? Bond insurers are the new subprime scourge? Jamie Lynn Spears is pregnant?

Yes, the world seems to be going awfully fast these days. In just a matter of weeks, Blu-ray has taken the upper hand in its battle with HD DVD to supplant the existing DVD platform by landing all but one of the remaining HD DVD studio holdouts to convert over to the Blu-ray format.

Real estate developers -- one of the hardest hits sectors last year -- have started to bounce back. It doesn't hurt that weaker players have gone under and that by lowering the federal funds rate by 125 basis points to 3%, mortgage rates will likely inch lower in the coming weeks instead of higher.

A few weeks ago did it even seem conceivable that politicians would agree to send rebate checks to most families this summer?

I can keep going. I usually like to stick to one theme in my weekly columns, but the one prevailing theme within all of these headlines is that January was a blur of financial activity. That's the one theme today. Blink once and the world changes.

I'm actually relieved to head into February. The shortest month of the year should be good for a breather. What's that? It's a leap year? We have 29 days of February to feed us financial morsels? Oh well. Buckle up, my friends. We're moving fast but the end of 2008 is still 11 crazy months away.

Rick Munarriz is a personal finance columnist for He has written for sites such as The Motley Fool and Citysearch, with appearances on NPR, TechTV, Sirius, and CNN en Espaņol. He can be reached through where he discusses his latest articles.

Source: (c) Copyright 2008. All rights reserved

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