Morning headlines

You decide: July's retail sales numbers are out and the results, well, take your pick. From Reuters: "Retailers Sweat Through Lackluster July." From AP: "Nation's Retailers See Solid July Gains." In fairness, we're in a stretch where economists are having a tough time with their analyses. It's not so much a question of where we're headed - it's down - but to what degree.

Dining out blues: Higher gas prices are putting a dent into sales at the restaurant chains, especially those like Chili's and Applebee's that cater to a more budget-conscious consumer. Almost 30 percent of respondents in a June survey said they had cut back on eating out because of high pump prices, up from 21 percent a year earlier.

More housing worries: Foreclosure activity for the second quarter jumped in California by its biggest margin in 14 years, although the actual numbers are still significantly lower than the historical average. Also, mortgage applications last week sank to their lowest level in four years.

YouTube or TheyTube?: Lots of buzz today about YouTube, the popular video-sharing site. The most intriguing story is in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), which tracks an amateur-looking spoof of Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth" to the computer of a Washington PR/lobbying firm. Also comes word of Hollywood studios posting YouTube films that are really ads. There's a Lion's Gate campaign for a new horror film, "The Descent."

Port deal: A Japanese shipping company, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha and International Transportation Service, has agreed to reduce harmful pollutants at the Port of Long Beach by 90 percent over the next decade. The ITS complex covers nearly 250 acres at the port.

Electric reprieve: Southern California Edison has asked the state Public Utilities Commission for permission to postpone a planned 2 percent rate hike until early November. The delay gives a reprieve to residential customers because of a spike in power use from last month's heat wave.

Business friendly: Burbank, El Segundo, Lancaster, Long Beach and Santa Clarita are named as finalists in a contest to be L.A. County's friendliest city when it comes to business. Not on the list - and not expected to be - is the city of Los Angeles. The smaller cities surrounding L.A. have long been aggressive in attracting and retaining companies.

Isn't L.A. funny?: There's a lot of nasty stuff going on in the world, but that isn't stopping the New York Times from delivering its steady diet of "Aren't those L.A. people weird?" stories. The latest installment is the pet grooming business in Beverly Hills and beyond. I suppose New Yorkers wouldn't think to pamper their dogs and cats the way it's done "on the coast."

More by Mark Lacter:
American-US Air settlement with DOJ includes small tweak at LAX
Socal housing market going nowhere fast
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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Letter from Down Under: Welcome to the Homogenocene
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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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