peHUB First Read

Some links to kick off your Friday:

* A $15 billion writedown at Merrill? Makes the $12 billion estimates look conservative…

* Gizmodo on its own prankishness at CES.

* DealBreaker doesn’t blame CountryWide (which is now being bought by BoA). It blames President Bush, and his fabled “ownership society.”

* Decreased buyout activity means decreased bank fees.

* JS Group has closed a $158 million private equity fund dedicated to investments in Pakistan, according to MarketWatch. The fund already has made two investments: A control deal for Optimus, the Hertz franchise in Pakistan, and a minority play in Engro Asahi Polymer & Chemicals, a maker of PVC resin.

* Is Chrysler looking to save itself via a partnership with Nissan?