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The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week: Nov. 18

5. Buffett's Bungle

Somebody tell Warren Buffett to check his trade confirmations because apparently he purchased $10.7 billion worth of the wrong company.

Berkshire's (BRK-B) Chairman told CNBC Monday that he bought a 5.5% stake in IBM (IBM) because it has smart employees and sticky customers. Well, judging from what we saw in Illinois this week, the so-called Oracle of Omaha may have been thinking of Cray (CRAY) while buying shares of Big Blue.

You see, notwithstanding Buffett's on-air assertion that "if you're with IBM, you stay with them," the University of Illinois said Monday that Seattle-based Cray will take over construction of the stalled $300 million Blue Waters supercomputer after IBM bowed out three months ago over cost and technical concerns.

Cray says it plans to have the project, which is being financed by the National Science Foundation (NSF), up and running next year despite the delays caused by IBM's inability to get the job done.

"We clearly had to do it real quickly," said Thom Dunning, the director of the school's National Center for Supercomputing Applications. "NSF's goal was to keep the project on track as much as it possibly could be." Shares of Cray jumped almost 9% on the deal.

Hey Warren, you like atoms? Well, Cray got IBM's business. How about them atoms?

Cray CEO Peter Ungaro said the cost and financing of the project will basically stay the same with the NSF ponying up more than $200 million and the remaining $100 million coming from the university and the state of Illinois. As for Cray, it will pocket $188 million for the job, which equals about half of its total revenue from the last 12 months. Of course, that tally is relatively tiny compared with the $106 billion in sales IBM has rung up over the past year, so we can probably assume that the folks at IBM were pretty content to cut bait and move on.

That said, once Cray gets this baby up to speed, the supercomputer will be used for a lot of different cool things, like studying how tornadoes are formed and how viruses invade cells.

Oh yeah, and with the ability to do one quadrillion machine operations per second, Blue Waters will just kick Watson's ass in Jeopardy!
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