Friday morning headlines

Sealing the deal?: Today the Hollywood studios and the Writers Guild negotiators are expected to finalize a 3-year contract that should be more than satisfactory for many of the striking writers (see blow post). But before the WGA board signs off on the deal, they'll be getting feedback tomorrow night at a general membership meeting. Barring virulent opposition always possible but pretty unlikely the board will meet on Sunday and writers could be back on the job Monday. Simple. (Deadline Hollywood Daily)

Sorting out the schedule: The LAT lays out which shows will return this Spring, which ones will be pushed into next fall, and which ones might not be back. As happens in any industry returning from a long strike, it's a complicated, often expensive process.

Only about 10 to 20 prime-time network programs are likely to return this spring with fresh episodes, including some of TV's biggest hits, such as "Grey's Anatomy" on ABC and "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" on CBS. Some viewers might not see new episodes of their favorites until fall -- at the earliest. Shows with complex plots, large casts and complicated production elements, such as NBC's "Heroes" and Fox's "24," are expected to roll over to next season. Studio executives say they can't justify the increased costs of ramping up production for every program halted by the strike. It would cost the studios millions of dollars extra -- an average $200,000 more an episode, according to one estimate -- to produce an abbreviated run for each series. Crews must be rehired, sets need to be rebuilt, and the costs of production would be spread over a smaller number of episodes.

Don't charge it: The Federal Reserve reports a sharp cutback in credit card borrowings, yet one more indication that consumers are pulling back. Delinquencies are also up. In turn, banks have tightened their lending standards, keeping people who have maxed out their cards from finding new ones. From the WSJ:

In past economic downturns, Americans used credit cards mainly for discretionary purchases, such as furniture, appliances and jewelry. Now, however, many of them regularly whip out plastic to pay for groceries, gasoline and other everyday necessities. Credit-card issuers won't disclose exact figures, but they say it is evident that a growing percentage of card volume is for basic purchases. Many issuers even dole out extra rewards for such transactions. Evidence is mounting that the plastic-fueled spending spree won't last. In December, an average of 7.6% of credit-card loans were either at least 60 days delinquent or had gone into default, up from 6.4% a year earlier, according to research firm RiskMetrics Group.

More recession calls: Global Insight, a prominent forecasting firm, says the economy has slipped into a mild recession that will last through the first half of this year. Among other firms in the recession camp: Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., UBS AG and Northern Trust Corp. (WSJ)

Another luxury condo: This one is will be on Santa Monica Boulevard in Century City - a 45-story tower to be designed by Paris architect Jean Nouvel. Hes proposing a narrow glass structure with sweeping views through the building. Plans call for 177 units, with two to six condominiums per floor. And yes, it does seem weird to be talking about such an ambitious project in the midst of a real estate-fueled downturn - except that the likely tenants are basically recession-proof (some units will run into the tens of millions of dollars). As we've been reporting for some months, similar luxury towers are going up in Bev Hills and Century City. (LAT)

Kanye West sells home: The hip-hop star is getting about $8 million for his Bev Hills property. He bought the place less than a year ago for $7.15 million. The listing calls it a "teardown," which means the South of Sunset property was sold for its land value (unbelievable). The property had been listed last fall for $8.7 million. (WSJ)

Home prices questioned: Two couples are accusing L.A.-based KB Home and a unit of Countrywide Financial with pumping up appraisals in their Sacramento-area development in order to sell homes at higher prices. This was done, the suit contends, by comparing sales prices in other KB developments rather than neighboring houses. (LAT)

The party's over: Gas prices only fell a touch last week. The Auto Club's latest survey shows that the average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $3.080, which is 0.4 cents lower than last week and 53 cents above last year.

Kickback probe?: This sounds very preliminary - and perhaps even bogus - but the NY Post reports that the FBI is looking into whether an editor at In Touch received kickbacks from a photo agency in exchange for doling out assignments to the agency. If the unnamed editor took payments and didn't report it as income, it could be tax evasion. The source said that one agency received $80,000 in assignments without ever getting a photo into the magazine. Apparently, the story is making the rounds.

More by Mark Lacter:
American-US Air settlement with DOJ includes small tweak at LAX
Socal housing market going nowhere fast
Amazon keeps pushing for faster L.A. delivery
Another rugged quarter for Tribune Co. papers
How does Stanford compete with the big boys?
Those awful infographics that promise to explain and only distort
Best to low-ball today's employment report
Further fallout from airport shootings
Crazy opening for Twitter*
Should Twitter be valued at $18 billion?
Recent stories:
Letter from Down Under: Welcome to the Homogenocene
One last Florida photo
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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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