From the weekend papers

Stop the presses: The L.A. Times cites job growth on the Westside for the increasing traffic congestion that's being felt from Beverly Hills to Santa Monica - and suggests that the only hope is either a light rail system or a subway to the beach. Now, maybe there's a chance such projects will be finished in our great, great, great grandchildren's lifetimes (though I doubt it). But what, prey tell, are we supposed to do in the meantime? Apparently, just grin and bear it. Curiously missing from the piece: Any discussion of the past two or three years of road construction - on Santa Monica Boulevard and on the 405 - and how that might be impacting travel times. And while we're on the subject, have the cost overruns for that SM project ever been released? Would be kind of curious to know.

Speaking of growth: More jobs, along with more affordable housing, help explain Santa Maria overtaking Santa Barbara as the most populous city in SB County. In July, the median home price in Santa Maria was $455,000; in Santa Barbara, it was $1.05 million. Also, from 2000 to 2005, Santa Barbara issued permits for 723 new housing units, while Santa Maria issued 4,258.

More Macy's buzz: The New York Times profiles Federated Department Stores's CEO Terry Lundgren (think George Hamilton without the tan), who has been criss-crossing the country trying to appease anyone bent out of shape about all those regional department stores being converted to Macy's. That includes agreeing to build a Macy's at the faded Valley Plaza shopping center in North Hollywood. Lundgren's diplomatic skills are worthy of a slot at the UN, but he's no pushover. Consider this:

Soon after Federated disclosed that Marshall Field’s, an upscale Midwest department store, would lose its name, scores of shoppers wrote blistering letters to the company, with several threatening to cut up their Field’s charge cards. Worried that the reaction might be widespread and hurt the chain’s sales, Mr. Lundgren asked the accounting department to pull the purchase records of the first 100 letter writers. “There was no activity,” he said. “Or incredibly little activity.”

“This is where the tension was coming from,” he continued. “There was a group of people who did not want a change. But do they like the merchandise in the store? Not according to their spending. In their letters, they talked about when they were a child. But nobody was talking in the present tense.”

The lesson was clear: changing the name was unlikely to hurt sales. In fact, it might improve them. Then there is the pure financial logic. The conversion to Macy’s will save Federated millions on advertising — one name is cheaper to market than 11 — and create one national brand with stronger negotiating power with clothing suppliers.

M&A hanky-panky?: A study conducted for the New York Times found suspicious trading activity among bunches of companies right before they received buyout bids. The study analyzed the price, the number of shares traded, and the number of individual trades in each stock during the weeks leading up to the announcement - and then looked for large deviations from trading patterns going back as far as four years. Insider trading is the most likely explanation, though try proving it.

More by Mark Lacter:
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Amazon keeps pushing for faster L.A. delivery
Another rugged quarter for Tribune Co. papers
How does Stanford compete with the big boys?
Those awful infographics that promise to explain and only distort
Best to low-ball today's employment report
Further fallout from airport shootings
Crazy opening for Twitter*
Should Twitter be valued at $18 billion?
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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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