Google's wildcard watch

From CNET Steve Ballmer, who just announced to the troops that Microsoft was firing 5,000 employees due to the recession, might be excused for wanting to slam his head against the wall at this point.

After reporting quarterly earnings, Google finished Friday up more than $18. So at this point, at least, it's still Google 1, Recession 0. The cool kids have the upper hand--at least for the time being.

I'm the last to suggest that Google is immune to the drag of an economic slowdown. Everyone these days is obviously tightening their belts, and Google is no exception. The company let go of 100 contractors and recently ordered three projects shut down as cost-savings measures. (How long before more money losers get dumped?)

In the meantime, however, Google's advertising business held up remarkably well in the fourth quarter, all things considered. Even though the economy headed south, Google's paid clicks increased 18 percent in the fourth quarter compared with the same period a year earlier.

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