Workers ratify grocery pact: Final tallies are still not in but union officials expect better than 90 percent acceptance. The new contract calls for an immediate pay hike and a shortened waiting time for health insurance. Even Steve Burd, CEO of Safeway (parent of Vons) who led management's get-tough negotiating stance four years ago, seemed pretty pleased. "I applaud the UFCW International Union, the seven Southern California UFCW locals and our employer bargaining partners for coming to agreement on a contract that benefits our employees, customers and company," he said.
Still no deal at ports: Clerical workers and shippers seemed very close last week to a new contract, but there's still no agreement and the union is talking tough again. The Office Clerical Unit of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union presented their final offer to shipping companies over the weekend. The next meeting between the two sides is scheduled for tomorrow. If there is a strike, it would shut down the entire port complex, which would be a very big economic deal. (AP)
L.A. new Internet center: Information services companies generated $167 million in venture capital investment during the second quarter, only trailing Silicon Valley's $262 million. The latest venture numbers from Ernst & Young and Dow Jones VentureOne show that overall L.A. (which includes Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties) received $459 million for the three-month period, up from $182 million last year. Nationwide, VC firms invested $7.4 billion in the second quarter, up 8 percent. (LAT)
$100-a-barrel oil is near: A Goldman Sachs analysts says that says $95 crude is likely this year unless OPEC unexpectedly increases production. Another analyst predicts $100 a barrel as soon as next year (prices are currently running around $75 a barrel). The thing is higher prices have done little to ebb worldwide demand (China and India especially). From Bloomberg:
A National Petroleum Council study led by former Exxon Mobil chairman Lee Raymond, released last week, predicted a growing gap between production and demand for oil and gas during the next two decades. As recently as 2005, Raymond said oil prices had probably peaked and dismissed the possibility that supply and demand could not be brought back into balance. "There are questions about whether the oil industry can keep up with demand,'' U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said last week, commenting on the Petroleum Council report.
Subpriming in Beverly Hills: A BH plastic surgeon, Dr. Raphael Nach, says in a lawsuit that he unaware that Moody’s had given “excessively high ratings” to bonds backed by subprime loans - and that Moody’s stock price was inflated because of the ratings. Moody’s CFO Linda Huber is named in the suit as a defendant (Moody's says there is no basis for the litigation). Here's more from Marketbeat:
While the housing market raged, the suit says, Moody’s earned millions of dollars in fees assigning credit ratings to bonds backed by mortgages to borrowers with poor credit. “Even as a downturn in the housing market caused rising delinquencies of the subprime mortgages underlying such bonds,” it says, “Moody’s maintained its excessively high ratings, rather than downgrade the bonds to reflect the true risk of owning subprime-mortgage-backed instruments."
New kind of Barbie: She's not quite as shapely as her standard namesake, but a lot more functional. El Segundo-based Mattel is introducing a doll who functions as an MP3 music player. The new Barbie connects into the BarbieGirls.com Web site, which has games, virtual shops and online chatting. From the NYT:
The trends that have brought about BarbieGirls, Webkinz and their ilk are clear: While sales of dolls, action figures and outdoor toys are down, electronics sales to children were up 16.6 percent over the last two years as of May, the latest month available from the NPD Group, a research firm that tracks retail trends. The total toy industry’s annual sales were up just 0.8 percent in May, compared with two years ago. With children’s leisure-time habits shifting online, toy companies are responding with new products that can be construed as fun both online and offline. That Barbie in the docking station? Go to a physical store and buy her an extra outfit, and you get access to even more Web content.