After a heady day yesterday, the major market indexes took a breather today. Meantime, in England, bookies have given Jennifer Lopez's brand-new marriage to singer Marc Anthony 3-1 odds of ending in divorce by the end of the year. No matter. If three marriages and a Ben Affleck aren't enough for J-Lo, we're sure she'll land on her feet.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Europe Hunts Intel

By Tim Beyers

Even in what appears to be good times for Intel(Nasdaq: INTC), bad news seems to follow the chip maker. Yesterday it followed in the footsteps of Microsoft(Nasdaq: MSFT) when the European Commission, the regulatory arm of the European Union, confirmed that it has relaunched an investigation into Intel's business practices.

The case stems from complaints from rival Advanced Micro Devices(NYSE: AMD) that first came to notoriety in 2001. According to published reports, the commission is investigating whether Intel threatened PC makers with retaliation if they used AMD's processors. These same allegations induced Japanese regulators to order a raid of Intel offices near Tokyo in April.

This is the second investigation in the EU involving Intel over the past three months. In April, regulators said they would look into whether several member states ignored mandates for open procurement processes by choosing Intel-powered PCs. Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands are named as possible offenders, though no action has been taken.

Fellow Fool Seth Jayson has written extensively about the EU's punitive action against Microsoft, lampooning it for missing the big picture. You can read more about his thoughts here:

Do the Intel investigations have any more merit? Allow me to answer that by channeling Seth for a moment and expressing my desire to slap someone with a wet noodle. To be sure, the allegations of retaliation and abusing monopoly power are serious. But the investigation into Intel's business practices began three years ago with, as yet, no results. Plus, AMD has bloodied Intel lately in their bare-knuckle fight.

And then there's the "you buy too much Intel" investigation into EU government PC procurements. Psst.... Hey, guys, Intel owns 80% of the PC market. Isn't it reasonable to expect that more than a few PCs would have, uh, Intel inside?

I know I'm inviting hate mail with this rant. So be it. I don't mind a little regulation to keep capitalism in check. But the EU's recent investigative spree feels more like an attempt at wealth redistribution disguised as regulation, and that's intolerable.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers wishes the regulators would visit his neighborhood. He could use a little wealth redistribution where he lives. Tim owns no interest in any of the companies mentioned, and you can view his Fool profile here.

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FedEx Delivers for USPS

By Brian Gorman

FedEx (NYSE: FDX) will take on responsibility for the U.S. Postal Services' Global Express Guaranteed international delivery service in a deal that seals the company's position as a dominant partner for the USPS.

In winning the new contract, which will take effect July 1, the delivery and logistics specialist displaces competitor DHL Worldwide Express and builds on what has evidently been a fruitful relationship. Under its current deal with the mail service, FedEx furnishes domestic air transportation. Notably, the partners entered a fourth addendum to that agreement in March that allows FedEx to continue carrying incremental pounds of mail at higher volumes than spelled out in the original agreement. FedEx's capacity to scale up as necessary no doubt is one of the factors that makes it an attractive partner, even as this same capability adds to the company's bottom line.

While it is unclear how profitable the new Postal Service business will be, the relationship's value from a marketing standpoint appears obvious. Under the new pact, all packages and shipping labels will be co-branded with both USPS and FedEx logos. The promotional power of this tie-up, when coupled with the additional exposure FedEx will receive through its acquisition of Kinko's, could help the company make further gains on its larger rival, UPS(NYSE: UPS).

These catalysts and other factors make it easy to see why FedEx is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. As Fool contributor Seth Jayson wrote, the company has achieved some impressive margin improvement for such a massive enterprise. Nor is the firm resting on its laurels, as it expects margins in its Express business to increase significantly again in fiscal 2005. Perhaps reflecting heightened confidence, FedEx also recently bumped up its quarterly dividend.

The company is most of the way through fiscal 2004 and is already predicting earnings will grow 14% to 24% in 2005 to $4.00 to $4.20 per share. With the economy expanding and FedEx's latest initiatives still falling into place, the firm's chances of hitting the higher end of those expectations seem good.

Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer living in Chicago, Ill. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned here.

Discussion Board of the Day: EU's Probe of Intel

Do you think the EU's investigation of Intel's business practices has merit? Or do you think the EU has better ways to spend its time? Share your thoughts on our Intel discussion board.

Microsoft Pressures Pirates

By Seth Jayson

Geekdom is more than a little bit like Bizarro world -- or maybe Italy -- where familiar notions of right and wrong are twisted to fit the culture and the facts. (Just kidding, Italy. I tease because I love.) To get an idea of what I'm talking about, consider the following:

If I steal a car from under the rainbow tent at Fred's Pontiac, how many of you think that Fred should upgrade my brake system if a manufacturing error is found? I don't see too many hands.

Now, if I steal a computer operating system, how many of you think that I should get free upgrades and security patches? Still not too many hands? Well, in Geekdom you'd see a lot more arms waving in the air, because, as the argument goes, by patching the pirate systems, you decrease the danger to legitimate users.

This is an issue that's been simmering in the tech news for the past month or so ever since Microsoft(Nasdaq: MSFT) group product manager Barry Goffe made comments indicating that Service Pack 2 (SP2), a much-awaited upgrade to Windows XP, would not specifically exclude well-known pirated product keys. This position, a reversal from the policy for SP1, was welcomed by many IT commentators, who pointed out that it would reduce the possibility of major network disruptions that could otherwise be spawned on the millions of unprotected pirate systems.

But then the other shoe dropped. Word came out of Redmond that, in fact, the 20 most common pirate keys would be shut out from SP2. Microsoft critics wasted no time in venting their spleen. Linux advocates were quick to note that their security fixes (like the OS itself) are available free. But Apple(Nasdaq: AAPL) fans, who always seem to enjoy watching Microsoft squirm, had less cause for chuckling.

Since OSX, Apple users have had a taste of mainstream-OS agony, enduring pay-to-play service packs like "Jaguar" and "Panther." Late last month, they were treated to a critical security flaw, along with the griping that comes from security professionals when the folks at headquarters don't treat it as seriously as they should. The most severe of the threats was patched only this morning, with little fanfare.

Interested in more Fool tech coverage?

Fool contributor Seth Jayson always loves hearing from brittle Apple fans. He owns no company mentioned. View his Fool profile here.

Quote of Note

"Goodness is the only investment that never fails." -- Henry David Thoreau

Buffetize Your Finances

By Dayana Yochim (TMF School)

Quick, without cheating, what's the balance in your 401(k) (or other work retirement account)? How much money is in your checking account? What did you spend on food last week?

Stumped? (We'll assume so by that blank stare.) Then it's time to Buffettize your finances.

There's no better model of a competent, hands-on CEO than Warren Buffett. Here's a guy who can practically recite his company's annual report -- and five years' worth of his personal checkbook entries -- verbatim. And we're only partly kidding. In one interview, Buffett recalled puzzling over a $4 income item on his latest tax return. A $4 item! From a guy who is worth more than $30 billion!

Today, take the 15 to 20 minutes required to begin a self-audit. Use your computer, checkbook, abacus, or all those fingers and toes to add up your major assets and liabilities (fancy terms for what you own and what you owe). Simply write down the balances of the following items:

  • Checking accounts
  • Savings accounts (including money market accounts and CDs)
  • Brokerage accounts
  • Retirement accounts (including IRAs, old 401(k)s, that secret Bahamian stash)
  • Home equity (if you own a home)
  • Short-term debt (credit cards, student loans, and auto loans)
  • Long-term debt (mortgage)

Now see if you can answer these questions:

  • Is your net worth increasing?
  • Is your debt growing or shrinking?
  • Are you shocked by what you see? Appalled? Elated?

If you can't determine what direction your money is going (up, down, or haywire), use this simple money rundown as a starting point for your personal audit and repeat it next month when you have a baseline for comparison.

While the fire of Buffett is burning inside of you, start improving your shareholder's (or family's, in this case) long-term value. For the next month, we're offering free access to TMF Money Advisor, where you can get an analysis of your personal balance sheet and one-on-one advice from an independent source.

More on Today

Shannon Zimmerman insists that 90 million fund investors can't be wrong in The Case for Mutual Funds.... J. Graham shows how to look beyond what's in the news in Earnings Madness.

In other news:

For a list of all our stories from today, see our Today's Headlines page.