Closer to recession?: That's what UCLA's Anderson Forecast is saying in its latest quarterly report. Between credit woes and the housing slowdown, growth is expected to hover just above 1 percent by early next year - so sluggish that it wouldn't take much to tip the economy into a recession. In California, year-over-year job growth will slow to 0.7 percent, while unemployment will rise to near 6 percent from the current 5.3 percent. Real estate woes should moderate by the middle of next year. True, it's just another bunch of economists making educated projections, but the UCLA folks have a history of being right lots of the time. (LAT, Business Journal)
Anschutz pulls fast one: All right, how else would you describe middle-of-the-night passage of legislation that would make Anschutz Entertainment Group eligible for millions of dollars in state housing funds? Oh, and did we mention that AEG is a major political contributor? The Anschutz bill, which was sponsored by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and opposed by advocates of affordable housing, would make AEG's L.A. Live project near the Staples Center eligible to compete for some of the $2.8 billion in bond money voters approved for such housing last year. From the LAT:
Watchdog groups are highly critical of such bills - known as "jam jobs" - because they do not go through the normal vetting process of months of public hearings. The bill was amended in the Senate last week. "Nobody has taken a look at the policy implications of this yet," said Julie Snyder, policy director of the nonprofit group Housing California. Another housing group argued that an entertainment conglomerate is not an appropriate recipient of public housing funds. Anschutz has donated $50,000 to the campaign for a ballot measure, championed by the Democrats who control the Legislature, that would extend term limits of sitting lawmakers.
Another OK for Grand Ave.: Bonaventure Hotel owner Peter Zen keeps fighting the good fight in opposing the $2-billion makeover (Villaraigosa has been trying to strike a deal with him that would avoid a lengthy court tussle). This time, Zen's attorneys argued that Grand Ave. would violate a downtown redevelopment plan by adding too many housing units. But a council committee voted in favor of tract maps for the project, which is supposed to be an important next step. Related Cos. had been scheduled to break ground Oct. 1, but that's been pushed back to December. (LAT)
CEO: Mattel not perfect: Boy, talk about stating the obvious. Robert Eckert told lawmakers on Capitol Hill this morning that the El Segundo toymaker would work to improve safety, and insisted that the company acted responsibly in recalling millions of Chinese-made toys. There has been squabbling between Mattel and the Consumer Product Safety Commission over when the government should be notified of safety problems. Eckert would only say that both sides are developing a "new set of reporting protocols." (AP)
Drug companies win: Amgen shares are up almost 3 percent in early trading on news of that FDA panel declining to recommend restrictions on the use of anti-anemia drugs being sold by the Thousand Oaks-based company. Several studies suggest high doses of the drugs lead to increased risk of heart problems and even death. But panel members said the data was inconclusive about the ideal hemoglobin target and choose to err on the side of giving doctors more discretion. (Reuters)
Why is El-Erian leaving?: Harvard's investment fund manager would only offer a long and cryptic statement about why he's returning to OC and the Bill Gross-led Pacific Investment Management Company (other than he wants to be closer to his family). At Pimco, El-Erian will step into the newly created position of managing director, co-chief executive and co-chief investment officer. The news was surprising to some because Harvard's endowment had a 23 percent return for fiscal 2007 - not too shabby, especially since El-Erian had to rebuild much of the fund's team. From the NYT:
At Pimco, Mr. El-Erian made tens of millions, according to several people who know him. Though he was only at Harvard for half of fiscal 2006, he earned $2.3 million. The fiscal 2007 figures are not yet available. An associate who did not want to be identified because he had not been authorized to discuss the matter said yesterday that Mr. El-Erian’s wife and daughter were not happy in Boston. Jay O. Light, dean of the Harvard Business School and a board member of the Harvard Management Company, said that he had known of Mr. El-Erian’s plan for several weeks and that “Mohamed has been thinking about this long and hard.”
No more Nissan Open: The annual PGA event at storied Riviera Country Club will now be sponsored by a McLean, Va. consulting company, Bearing Point. This ends the tournament's 21-year association with Nissan, though it's not much of a surprise after the automaker moved its corporate offices from Torrance to Nashville. (LAT)
Stewart back at Oscars: The host of "The Daily Show" is returning after decidedly mixed reviews when he first hosted in 2006 (Ellen DeGeneres did a much better job earlier this year). Whatever. The show, scheduled for Feb. 24 on ABC, will be produced by Gil Cates, who was also the producer in 2006. (NYT)
Univision overstates case: The L.A.-based media giant issued a press release proudly announcing that it beat out ABC, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC with its Democratic forum. Variety says that's not quite the whole story - that the 4.6 million viewers being touted came from an analysis of viewers who had tuned in for at least six minutes of the 90-minute forum. The total average viewers for the debate came in at 2.1 million, making it the sixth highest-rated debate.