Countrywide's savior?: There's still all kinds of discussion about the effectiveness of Bank of America's $2 billion investment in the giant mortgage lender - for Countrywide as well as the mortgage biz in general. One big question involves the $30 billion worth of riskier mortgages (known as option adjustable-rate mortgages) that Countrywide holds. Defaults on those have more than tripled in the past year. All of which suggests that Countrywide will still have to slash lending - and perhaps jobs. (WSJ)
Lousy credit? Don't worry!: Companies large and small are still pitching loans all over the Internet for folks with spotty credit histories. Much of the advertising is coming from firms that do not make loans but send borrowers' financial information to lenders and brokers. From the Washington Post:
The Federal Trade Commission has investigated lending institutions for being misleading. For example, offering low rates without disclosing that the rates increase after a certain period of time, or offering loans that do not exist would violate federal laws, said Peggy Twohig, associate director for the division of financial practices at the FTC. Twohig said the agency is monitoring mortgage-related ads and recently spotted some that were of concern, but she declined to name the companies. "It depends on exactly what they say, how they say it, how big and bold things are titled, what they try to hide in the small print," she said. Mike Larson, a real estate analyst for Weiss Research in Jupiter, Fla., said that "the nicest" way to describe these companies is that they are "optimists," adding, "Even if they get a customer in the door this way, it's going to be a lot harder to qualify that customer than it was six months ago."
Sign of the Times: A free Web site now allows people to search for lender-owned foreclosures, using parameters such as price range and home size. The Catalist Homes website - www.catalisthomes.com - claims to show only those properties that have been repossessed by the lender and are available for sale. (LAT)
Dullsville: What a difference a few days make, huh? Last week Wall Street was almost out of control and this week it's in a stupor (though an unexpected increase in new home sales last month is perking things up this morning). Meanwhile, the economic forecasting firm Global Insight predicted that growth would be slower for the third quarter of this year, and it reduced its forecast for all of 2007 to 1.9 percent from 2.1 percent. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office also trimmed its previous growth forecast and warned that the uncertainties were higher than normal. (NYT)
More Tribune woes: Revenues last month fell 5.9 percent (8.6 percent on the publishing side), with the real estate segment off 24 percent due to significant declines in L.A., Florida and Chicago (no breakouts on specific properties). Automotive was down 14 percent. Interactive sales were up 11 percent to $22 million - not nearly enough to offset all the bad news on the print side. (AP)
Fix LAX - now: That was the message delivered by outgoing FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, who said in a speech that "the parallel runways on the north side are too close together." She said changes to the north airfield are needed to keep Los Angeles competitive in attracting international passengers and cargo. Denny Schneider, whose group opposes LAX expansion, said he wishes she had called for regionalization instead (see why nothing ever gets done?). (Daily Breeze)
"Kid Nation" under fire: This time it's the New Mexico attorney general's office, which is reviewing complaints about whether the upcoming reality show violated the state's child labor laws. There are also allegations that "Kid Nation" producers denied state inspectors access to the production site. CBS said the series was filmed responsibly. In case you haven't been following this, the show is TV's loose equivalent of "Lord of the Flies," where 40 kids, ages 8-15, fend for themselves in a New Mexican ghost town. From Variety:
Show's conceit has raised eyebrows and concerns that CBS and producers exploited minors for the sake of a reality TV skein. The "Kid Nation" controversy has been spurred along during the past few weeks by a complaint from a parent of a 12-year-old participant in the show who says her daughter was burned on the face by grease splatters during a kitchen accident and that she did not receive adequate medical treatment. CBS and Forman stressed that the kids were never really on their own at the large ranch facility in Bonanza, N.M., and that safeguards were in place to care for them in the event of an accident or injury.
Broken record: Yep, gas prices are down again. They’ve now fallen 70 cents over the last 15 weeks (pretty soon you'll have enough for a small coffee at Starbucks). The Auto Club's latest survey shows the average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $2.788, which is 7.6 cents cheaper than last week, 30 cents below last month, and 40 cents under last year.
Musical ports: Three shipping lines will shift their business - and $40 million in cargo each year - from the Port of L.A. to the Port of Long Beach because of delays in a long-planned expansion of the TraPac terminal (it's too small to handle the largest cargo ships). The Los Angeles port has been conducting an environmental review on the best options for TraPac, but that stuff takes forever. (LAT)
Hollywood justice: In case you’ve been under a rock (like I was yesterday), Nicole Richie was released by the County Sheriff's Department after serving 82 minutes of a four-day sentence. Once again, authorities blamed an overloaded jail system. Richie served her 82 minutes for driving under the influence of drugs. And Lindsay Lohan agreed to serve a one-day jail sentence after pleading no contest to drunk driving charges while admitting to using cocaine in two separate incidents. Nuf said. (LAT, LAT)