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IBM Raises the Axe (Again); Wii Outsells SuperMario

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Bloomberg is out with a story this week saying IBM will lay off 16,000 more employees, on top of the 15,000 the firm has already cut. Since economic recovery usually lags job losses, it’s another morbid sign that we’re still in the teeth of this economic hurricane.

Note also that the IBM numbers won’t be counted in the lousy jobs number coming out from the U.S. Labor Department later this week – that’s how bad things are getting. I’m also hearing rumors from Microsoft insiders that more layoffs are coming to Seattle, too.

Elsewhere, the stock market seems to have done a more orderly job of processing this week’s batch of bad economic news. True, the market fell 240 points today, but the retrenchment was expected after a decent start to the year. Consider this: if the same jobs estimates came out in October or November, the market would have fallen by 700 points today. It’s like we’re getting immune to bad news and already pricing financial Armageddon into the stock market on a regular basis.

Elsewhere – there’s always an elsewhere in the tech market – Forrester Research is out with a new survey saying consumers are significantly cutting purchases of gadgets and electronic toys. About 60 percent of survey respondents say their cutting back on the shiny tech baubles, as Forrester cuts the market into 10 easily-categorized areas in its report where at least 50 percent of respondents ay they won’t be buying anything.

Handheld game consoles, satellite radio, and smart phones, all fared the worst with each sector drawing over 60 percent in the "less likely to buy category." Categories (relatively) doing better include; Mobile (non-smart) phones, HDTVs, and laptops, respectively But even in these areas over 50 percent of consumers say they're less likely to purchase one in 2009. It seems that more people want their HDTV – only seven percent say they’ll be cutting back on that technology. Me, too. Once I saw hockey and football on HD, let’s face it, there’s no going back to regular cable TV.

Some more news from the “gadget” sector that investors might want to know about. The video game web site VGChartz reports that sales of Nintendo's megahit Wii Sports have surpassed those of all-tie champion Super Mario Bros. Now, the Wii is the best-selling video game of all time, and only 26 months after I pitched a tent with my son in a Target parking lot to buy one when they first came out.

According to VGChartz, the purchase numbers are “based on cumulative worldwide sales figures ending the week of December 27, 2008, which indicate that lifetime sales of Wii Sports have exceeded Mario's staggering 40.24 million units.”

Nintendo is coming out with a new version of the Wii – called Wii Resorts – later in 2009.

I won't be pitching a tent for that one.

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