Walmart wage hike, and this CEO pigged out in Vegas

The major stock indices (^GSPC, ^IXIC, ^DJI) were mixed in the first half of today’s session, recovering from steep early losses. Germany rejected Greece’s request for an extension on its bailout and oil prices were down, but off the lows of the session after the Energy Information Association report showed inventories rose more than expected.

On Greece, Yahoo Finance Senior Columnist Michael Santoli says, “Investors operate on a need to worry basis when it comes to Greece.” He points out that even with a hard and fast deadline coming up there is no real need to worry today and so markets have reacted accordingly.

“We got to an all-time high on the S&P and then we kind of just sat there which was the pattern really for most of the last couple of years,” he says.

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Walmart Wages
Big news out of Bentonville, Arkansas where the world’s largest retailer announced a plan to raise its minimum wage to $ 9 and hour this April and to $ 10 an hour next February.

Based on those levels, Walmart’s (WMT) minimum wage will be 25%, then 40% above the national requirement in the next year. The news comes one year to the day after Gap (GPS) announced a similar pay hike.

For Yahoo Finance’s Jeff Macke it’s evidence that, perhaps, we no longer need a federal minimum wage. Any company looking for competent workers will pay what the market requires. “Like some case study of capitalism gone right, the free market has given Americans raises even as D.C. filibusters and points fingers,” Macke contends.

American Express hit again
The credit card giant is watching shares get sliced by 2% today, 16% for the year, after the Justice Department said it can’t block businesses from offering lower-priced cards. As Yahoo Finance’s Aaron Task explains, “They were prohibiting merchants who accept the American Express (AXP) card from telling their customers ‘we prefer that you use Visa or Mastercard…’”

Yahoo Finance’s Michael Santoli says the ruling effectively allows merchants to suggest American Express and any other credit card are interchangeable. That’s a problem for American Express who has spent decades creating a premium feel that, as Santoli puts it, has eroded.

Vice’s vice
Bloomberg is reporting that Vice CEO Shane Smith hosted a dinner for between 10 and 30 people during CES in Las Vegas last month. The final bill apparently came in at $ 300,000. The wine alone reportedly cost up to $ 20,000 a bottle.

The New York Times reports that Smith used his own money for the soiree, but as Macke points out, “$ 300,000 is gonna come in handy for him or the company at some point and we just spent most of it on wine.”

Task adds, “This kind of fits with the vice brand… We’re talking about Vice. I don’t remember the last time we talked about Vice. That’s probably a good thing for them.

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