Enjoy Your Weekend While the World Comes Unglued: Opening Line

Ready for the weekend? Finally starting to warm up out there. Maybe dust off the tennis racket, or get the boat in the water. Watch television, which seems to be all anybody talks about now. Television shows.

But, just -- before you go:

Russia and Ukraine appear closer to going to war. Five more pro-Russian forces (read: Russian forces) were killed yesterday after Ukraine moved against the separatists, and Russia has begun military training at the Ukraine border that really looks like rehearsals for an invasion. Moreover, Russia made proposals months ago to Poland, Hungary and Romania about dividing Ukraine among them.

Israel and the Palestinians are probably not much further from their own renewed conflict now that the reconciliation of Hamas and Fatah has caused Israel to walk away from any efforts toward peace that, as Jeffrey Goldberg of Bloomberg View points out, “was going nowhere fast.”

North Korea is back in the nuclear bunkers, probably high on meth, messing with weapons that would ruin the world while Obama is just down the road.

Good weekend, everybody.

***

Meanwhile, S&P has lowered Russia’s rating to BBB-, one grade above junk. Russia unexpectedly raised its benchmark one-week auction rate to 7.5 percent from 7 percent earlier this morning.

A $13 billion tab is a lot. That’s the penalty BofA is facing from the U.S. Justice Department to resolve federal and state civil investigations related to its sale of mortgage-backed bonds implicated in the housing meltdown.

Alstom’s board plans to meet today to talk over GE’s interest in buying the company, Matthew Campbell and Aaron Kirchfeld report, citing a person familiar with the plans.

U.K. retail sales came in better than estimated, rising 0.1 percent in March instead of the forecast 0.4 percent decline. In the U.S. today, we’ll get the University of Michigan consumer confidence report at 9:55 a.m. New York time.

A much lighter earnings calendar today after those past few days. Ford tops the list, which includes Weyerhaeuser, Colgate, Whirlpool, State Street, and Moody’s.

***

U.S. companies have $2 trillion burning a hole in their pocket. From Apple’s payout of billions of dollars to bustling merger activity to expectations for some bigger capital spending, corporations are finally finding the business climate comfortable enough to part with some of their hoarded cash.

Dividends will get fatter, Richard Clough reports, followed more slowly by spending on equipment and facilities.

“Dividends should be higher,” BMO Private Bank’s Jack Ablin tells Clough. “Companies are being stingy, given the level of cash they’re generating.”

Investment in non-residential projects and equipment will rise by about 7 percent this year after increasing 3.1 percent in 2013, Clough says, citing Goldman Sachs data. UBS Investment Bank predicts spending on equipment will climb 7.5 percent this year and 10 percent in 2015.

If this is what is meant by trickle-down economics, lets get it started. We have wars to pay for.

***

This is probably what Cuba’s afraid of.

***

Simon Ostrovsky, the reporter for Vice, has been freed by pro-Russian forces in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk (some spell it Slaviansk) after he was taken captive on April 22. He told Agence France-Presse he had been bound, blindfolded and beaten at the start of his captivity. He also said he had been targeted.

We doubt he’ll be the last. The Ukrainian English-language newspaper KyivPost has tallied 16 people who have been kidnapped in Slavyansk and another city in eastern Ukraine, Horlivka. It cites reporting by its staff and the Donestsk-based news website Novosti Donbassa, and identifies six of them as journalists.

Others included local politicians, the mayor of Slavyansk, a prosecutor, a police chief and a medical examiner, among others. Some have been released, others are still being detained, and at least two have turned up dead, including one of the local politicians.

Our sentiments about the serious nature of what Vice is undertaking as a nascent news documentary reporting outfit in some of the world’s most dangerous places were shared this week in stories by New York magazine and the Daily Beast. Lesson learned: Don’t poke the bear with a video camera to see what reaction you get.

***

For those of you working late today, turn up the sound on Bloomberg Television at 5:30 p.m. EDT to catch Dolly Parton. Don’t know what she’s selling, but who cares? Have you heard that version of her song “Jolene” played at 33 rpm instead of 45 rpm? How about the 45 rpm version of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” which sounds like Dolly Parton?

***

It’s the last weekend before May, which is when the summer movie season launches in earnest and which is why this weekend’s movies are what they are: a bubbly romantic comedy, guys fighting and driving fast cars, and scary monsters.

First is “The Other Woman,” a Fox production about Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton (making her movie debut) finding themselves being double-timed (actually, the multiple appears to be much higher) by a rakish Wall Street type. They all become friends and team to bring the man down just like Dan Akroyd, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Lee Curtis did in “Trading Places.” There are lots of exotic locales -- one of them being Manhattan, which is so rare for movies these days -- and lots of flesh.

Paul Walker, the late star of the Fast & Furious franchise, is a cop who teams with a bad man to infiltrate a walled city of criminals in “Brick Mansions.” Guns, cars, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon‘‘-style gravity-defying fight scenes, etc.

If you’re looking for a movie more realistic than those two, ‘‘The Quiet Ones’’ isn’t the movie you’re looking for. Paranormal researchers head to an asylum or something to investigate a wigged-out girl, whose gyrations make the physics of ‘‘Hidden Dragon’’ look like ‘‘Enter the Dragon.’’

Next weekend, though. Something is bound to come out next weekend.

***

Missed this yesterday but can’t let it pass.

Michael Pineda -- dude, you pitch for the New York Yankees, perhaps the most fabled franchise in sports history, and you take the mound with pine tar on your damn neck? Do you have no respect for yourself?

And Joe Girardi comes to his defense? While Opening Line doesn’t specifically root for the Yankees, it is a proponent of character in sports, and Girardi always had it as a player. This tawdry display of sportsmanship is made all the worse by Girardi’s lame support.

Pineda ‘‘wasn’t trying to do anything to cheat,” the formerly esteemed Yankees manager said yesterday. Hey Joe, it is cheating. That’s why the league suspended him for 10 games. There are no degrees of cheating here, no qualifying it.

Wait, let’s try it this way:

The umpire arrives at the mound, wipes his finger on Pineda’s neck, and the finger comes back gooey and sticky.

“You’re out of here,” umpire says as he ejects Pineda.

Girardi comes to Pineda’s defense and tells the umpire, “Hey, he wasn’t trying to do anything to cheat.”

Umpire says, “OH REALLY? OH, OK THEN. NEVER MIND.”

Every time we see junk like this -- and Pineda, wherever you are, keep this in mind, too -- our first thoughts are of kids who take this as an example of what sports is. They see everything, especially the worst stuff.

***

Boston is up three games to one on Detroit after last night’s 3-2 overtime win in the first round of the NHL playoffs. Not sure who’s going to stop this team this year. In other results, Minnesota evened its series with Colorado at two games each with a 2-1 win, and Los Angeles staved off elimination with a 6-3 victory over San Jose, which still leads their series 3-1.

In the NBA playoffs, the Los Angeles Clippers took a 2-1 series lead against Golden State after a 98-96 win; Indiana, the No. 1 seed, is down two games to one against better-than-the-Knicks Atlanta, the No. 8 seed, after a 98-85 loss; and Memphis blew a 17-point lead with less than 8 minutes to play, requiring overtime to beat Oklahoma City 98-95. Memphis leads the series 2-1.

To contact the reporter on this story: C. Thompson in Wilmington at cthompson1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Marty Schenker at mschenker@bloomberg.net

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