Market bounceback?: That's the expectation anyway, perhaps bolstered by strong earnings this morning by Boeing and yesterday's huge numbers from Amazon (released after the market close). But on the sour side, existing home sales fell in June to their lowest level in nearly five years (though the median home price was up 0.3 percent for the first year-over-year increase in 11 months). The Dow was up around 90 points in early trading, but now it's slipped back.
Port strike?: Lots of conflicting information about the contract talks between clerks at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and shippers. Yesterday the expectation was that an agreement was near, but this morning there are reports of an impasse that could lead to a strike. If that happens, the entire port complex would be effectively shut down because longshoremen will not cross picket lines. It's doubtful that things will get out of hand, but any work stoppage would be costly.
Terrible Tribune numbers: The parent company of the LAT reported a 59 percent drop in second-quarter earnings, which was actually better than some investors had anticipated (resulting in a boost in the stock price!). Retail ad revenues were down 5 percent, with the largest decreases at the Times, Newsday and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel (the Florida papers are getting killed). Classified advertising revenues fell 18 percent for the quarter, with the largest declines in Los Angeles, South Florida and Orlando. Tribune is in the process of going private in that deal orchestrated by Sam Zell, but these results are below projections on which the leveraged buyout was based. Not good. (Bloomberg)
Counterfeit software seized: Authorities arrested 25 people in connection with the piracy ring, in which more than $500 million worth of counterfeit Microsoft and Symantec software was being made in China and distributed worldwide. An associate general counsel for Microsoft called it "the biggest software counterfeiting organization we have ever seen by far.” The FBI's Los Angeles field office worked with Chinese officials in what’s being described as an "unprecedented cooperative effort. Interestingly, Microsoft has its own 75-member antipiracy team that had been tracking a Chinese syndicate since May 2001, when counterfeit discs of the Windows Millennium operating system were found in Southern California. (NYT)
Bad numbers for Skechers: The Manhattan Beach.-based company blamed higher costs related to the launch of its Cali Gear brand for a 15 percent decline in net income. Also cited were increased distribution and marketing expenses. The stock is down 25 percent from its 12-month high of $38.03 on Feb. 27, just before a series of insider stock sales. (NY Post)
Platinum Equity cuts $1 billion deal: Ryerson Inc., a Chicago-based steel distributor and processor, is being bought by the Bev Hills-based buyout firm controlled by billionaire Tom Gores. Platinum is paying $34.50 a share, 15 percent more than Ryerson's close on Feb. 13, the day before the company indicated it would consider takeover bids. But it's less than what Ryerson was trading for on Monday, which suggests that investors are less than thrilled. As part of the deal, Platinum is also assuming about $1 billion in debt. (LAT)
Preacher suit: The Rev. Frederick K.C. Price, founder of the 22,000-member Crenshaw Christian Center, has filed suit against ABC, claiming that the news program “20/20” defamed him by suggesting he led an extravagant lifestyle funded with church money. The suit also names Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC, and "20/20" co-anchor John Stossel. ABC isn't talking, but the network has run two retractions. The suit cites a clip of a sermon Price delivered 10 years ago as being out of context. From the LAT:
In the clip, Price declares, "I live in a 25-room mansion, I have my own $6-million yacht, I have my own private jet and I have my own helicopter and I have seven luxury automobiles." In the full sermon, according to an excerpt provided by a spokesman for Price, he prefaced that by saying, "I was pointing out that there is such a thing as bad success. I said bad success is…." The sermon, which the suit says aired on Disney's Lifetime network, was about the importance of being a good Christian, and Price was quoting a hypothetical person with great material wealth who failed to follow a righteous path.
Lohan troubles: Sure, there's her apparent relapse leading to felony drug charges. But what will happen to the independent movie "Poor Things," which Lohan stars in and was supposed to start filming in three weeks? With the young actress probably unavailable, it's unclear whether the financing will hold up. Production of "Poor Things" had already been delayed almost two months because Lohan crashed her Mercedes and was charged with driving under the influence. "I hope they put her in jail for as long as they can," Bernie Brillstein told the NYT. "Maybe she’ll realize how serious it is. I believe she’s uninsurable. And when you’re uninsurable in this town, you’re done."