Just to clear up some confusion, 8 1/2 is Federico Fellini's masterpiece. Seven and a half is the number of things you need to know each day. Here those things are:
Thing One: Releasing the SPR Kraken: Gasoline prices: You're probably just as sick of paying them as we are sick of typing words about them, but you need to fill up your tank to head to your job/mall/mother's house, and I need to type words to feed my family, so let's do this thing.
Reuters insists that President Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, when not working on the pilot of their buddy-comedy series premiering this fall on NBC called Two Men, One Hot Dog (already canceled, don't worry), were also hammering out the details of an agreement to release the kraken! Or actually oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which sadly is not the same thing a kraken.
This would be done ostensibly to bring down oil prices just a smidgen, with the "side effect" that voters might be a little less inclined to find a Republican candidate stomach-able in the fall. Because high gas prices are not popular, reveals the Washington Post in a front-page stunner that may shock you, be warned.
But. The White House refuses to admit that it plans to tap the SPR -- which may not be all that easy anyway, Reuters writes in a follow-up. And tapping the SPR may not be nearly as effective in lowering prices as curbing oil-market speculation, something the White House also apparently is loath to do, writes Peter Goodman of The Huffington Post.
Thing Two: Price Check: Hope you like economic data, because that's what you're getting today. The latest consumer price index is due at 8:30 a.m. ET. It's going to be higher, economists think, because of food and gasoline prices. Excluding those things, "core" CPI will not be quite as high, but then we'd all be dead and unemployed if we excluded those things in real life. Also due today are reports on industrial production and consumer sentiment.
Thing Three: Goldman Blowback: There's no schadenfreude on Wall Street, apparently. the Financial Times reports that Goldman Sachs's rivals, led by JPMorgan Chase, are steadfastly refusing to snicker at the egg all over the Vampire Squid's face after ex-employee Greg Smith grabbed a six pack, opened the emergency-exit slide and lobbed a poison dart at his employer via the New York Times op-ed page. Meanwhile, the NYT writes that Wall Street is going to find it harder than ever to recruit geniuses out of college, who will now pursue "fulfillment" or something stupid like that. At least Goldman's day was brightened a bit by a motivational visit from professional mayor/money-haver Michael Bloomberg, writes Politico's Ben White.
Thing Four: Apple Sells New Thing: In other shocking news, Apple today started selling [incrementally different thing] to long lines of slavering people around the world, as its stock price soared briefly on Thursday to a record high of $600 a share. They closed over $500 for the first time just over a month ago. Meanwhile, though, Apple may be getting a wee bit hot under the collar about iTunes fraud, The New York Times writes, a problem that has been brewing for years now.
Thing Five: Google Probe: While Apple basks in the glory of being today's golden tech god, the golden tech god of four years ago faces the prospect of years of court battles over claims that it is saying "to hell with your privacy settings" to users of Apple's Safari web browser, writes the Wall Street Journal: "The investigations—which span U.S. federal and state agencies, as well as a pan-European effort led by France—could embroil Google in years of legal battles and result in hefty fines for privacy violations."
Thing Six: Not So High Frequency, You: High-frequency trading is a perfectly fine invention that lets hedge funds trade stocks and derivatives and the like in millisecond intervals, a practice whose side effects may include light market manipulation or crashing -- nothing serious, really. For some reason the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission wants to keep a closer eye on this practice, probably because he's a socialist, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Thing Seven: Romney Goes To China: China wants to put cameras all over the country to spy on its troublesome people, who annoyingly want "freedom" and "potable water" and similar luxuries. Well, somebody's got to put those cameras all over the place, and that somebody happens to be a company owned by Bain Capital, The New York Times reports. Yes, Bain Capital, the private equity firm once run by a certain Willard Mittens Romney. The same Romney who just gets so darn hopping mad about China he can't wait to declare it a currency manipulator. The same Romney who still has a personal stake in the private-equity fund that owns the same company that will be putting cameras all over China to spy on its people.
Thing Seven And One Half: Romney Goes To Grand Forks: Mitt Romney's got something of an image problem, in that people can't "image-ine" that he's a human being. He may be a robot, but he is not a dummy: He knows that nobody in America is more beloved right now than Marilyn Hagerty, whose review of the Grand Forks, N.D., Olive Garden has gone viral. Romney, in an effort to improve his standing with humans, figured he'd take a crack at the review game, too, Mother Jones reports. Here's a taste: "There was a fireplace, a real old-fashioned hearth, in the corner, and a nice vase on the ledge. I love décor; napkins are great. The ice water was just the right temperature." (Note to the clueless: This is a parody.)