Back in business: The financial markets reopen after the long, long weekend, and they're hopping. Wall Street appears optimistic about the New Year and you can see it in the opening trades of 2007. Better-than-expected December sales at Wal-Mart doesn't hurt either. At around 7:30, the Dow was up more than 100 points.
Union town: It would have been unlikely two or three decades ago, but L.A. unions are said to have a "brand advantage" among voters, according to a memo written by three senior labor analysts and leaked to the LAT. The two-page document seems a bit flimsy in its findings, but it emerges just as organized labor is about to campaign against a referendum that would block expansion of the city's Living Wage ordinance to LAX-area hotels.
Sub-prime mess: Stuff does happen around the holidays - such as the unexpected closure of Agoura Hills-based Ownit Mortgage Solutions. The sub-prime lender filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and laid off 800 workers. The CEO told the LAT that the filing was the only way to make sure that employees would be paid before other creditors. Apparently, there was an increase in defaults and several Wall Street firms decided to shut off the financial pipeline. (The bankruptcy filing was first reported last month.)
Heart deal: Amgen Inc. announced this morning a collaboration with Cytokinetics Inc. to develop heart failure drugs. SF-based Cytokinetics will receive an up-front fee of $42 million and Amgen has purchased nearly 3.5 million shares of its stock. Amgen does not sell drugs for heart diseases. The Cytokinetics drug activates a protein that plays an important role in making heart muscles contract to pump blood. NYT.
Rosy ratings: Lots and lots of Angelenos caught USC's 32-18 victory over Michigan. The game scored a 35 share of the L.A.-market audience. That's still a good deal below the 43.3 share for the 2003 Super Bowl (Raiders-Buccaneers) and the 42.1 share for Game 7 of the 2002 World Series (Angels-Giants). LAT
More from Malone: Well, maybe. The NY Post reports that the media mogul is taking a look at Rainbow Media, the Cablevision unit that operates AMC, IFC and WE: Women's Entertainment. Even the Post calls the interest preliminary, but now that Malone has taken over El Segundo-based DirecTV, he might want to pick up some sources of programming. Cablevision has received a $19.2 billion buyout proposal from the Dolan family (they control the company), but the process has been dragging on for several months and there might be some pressure among shareholders to cut some sort of deal.
Trouble for VIP: That's as in the landmark VIP Records in Long Beach, which could be facing a rent increase. Owner Kelvin Anderson told the Press-Telegram that he's paying $3,300 a month and can't afford much more (music retailers are not having an easy time these days). The store is part of a shopping center that's changed hands. The independent music store became a kind of icon for rap music when it was featured in Snoop Dogg's 1993 video, "What's My Name." Snoop Dogg is a Long Beach native.
Kaiser coverage: The state's largest HMO now says it wants to develop standards that would prevent unfair cancellations. The standards would include a requirement that Kaiser consult with policyholders before deciding whether to pull coverage. Kaiser was fined $100,000 for dropping a policyholder it accused of concealing his epilepsy - even though the condition had never been diagnosed by a physician. How could you conceal something you're not even aware of? LAT