Monday morning headlines

Oil nears $120: A strike at a refinery in Scotland and more violence in Nigeria are the reasons cited. The president of OPEC, Chakib Khelil, blamed a weak dollar for the run-up and didn't rule out $200-a-barrel oil. OPEC economists, however, consider $120 to be at the upper end of the current price range. (FT)

Bullish about stocks: Barron's has found lots of portfolio managers taking a darkest-before-dawn position on the markets. More than half of those surveyed are either bullish or very bullish about the prospects through the end of 2008 - and into 2009. All told, 87 percent expect to be net buyers in the next three to six months; only 13 percent intend to sell more shares than they buy.

"There's a lot of bad news already written in, and the market has improved because of it," says John Buckingham, chief investment officer at Al Frank Asset Management, in Laguna Beach, Calif., which manages $700 million. "If a company merely matches earnings expectations, its shares rally in this market." James Oelschlager, chief executive of Oak Associates in Akron, Ohio, with $1.5 billion in assets, cites investors' tendency to exaggerate current problems and extrapolate from the recent past. "Stagflation won't happen," he says. "Money [supply] is under control. Valuations look cheap. Lousy sentiment is always bullish. Wheat will grow in the desert when man's imagination fertilizes the soil."

Bearish about health care: A new Field Poll finds that 39 percent of Californians expect the health care system to get worse in five years. Only 13 percent expect it will improve. Specifically, 59 percent worry about not being able to pay for all the costs of a major illness or injury, and 57 percent fear losing coverage altogether (Mercury News).

Kerkorian buys into Ford: The Bev Hills billionaire has already picked up 4.7 percent of the automaker and is now going after another 1 percent. The announcement follows Ford’s unexpectedly strong first-quarter results. Kerkorian loves buying and selling shares of car companies - you might remember that he owned much as 10 percent of GM before selling out last year. (FT)

Hannah Montana topless: Well, sort of. The 15-year-old Disney maga-star, whose real name is Miley Cyrus, is wrapped in a bedsheet in the June issue of Vanity Fair. There's really not much to see, other than Miley's back, but press prudes are calling it a "revealing photo." That has the Mouse House in a major flack attack. Here's the NYT story. This is what Cyrus said in the VF article:

“Annie took, like, a beautiful shot, and I thought it was really cool. That’s what she wanted me to do, and you can’t say no to Annie.” She also said of the photo, “I think it’s really artsy. It wasn’t in a skanky way.”

Here is what Cyrus "said" in a prepared statement released on Sunday:

“I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be ‘artistic’ and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed. I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about.”

Deal or no deal?: The Screen Actors Guild and the media companies will have another week to agree on contract terms - or at least make enough compromises to keep the process going. AFTRA, the other actors union, is scheduled to begin its contract talks next week and will likely come up with a deal in short order. That will put pressure on SAG, many of whose members have no interest in striking. (Variety)

Diller to restart breakup: Now that he's won his first legal battle with billionaire investor John Malone, IAC CEO Barry Diller will meet with his board this week about the company's proposed spin-off that would create four separate entities, including locally based Ticketmaster. Diller and Malone are also looking to resolve their differences, perhaps by Malone acquiring IAC's Home Shopping Network. (NY Post)

New format at THR: The Hollywood trade paper is out with a redesigned look for both print and online. There are all kinds of extra features (new departments, data, blogs), and they're not being shy about plugging the rollout. There's a main story, plus letters from the publisher and editor, and an explanation of the design change. (THR)

Where are VCs investing?: Try online video. A total of $460.5 million was spent in 2007, up from $266.9 million a year earlier. Perhaps more significant was the $217.3 million in first quarter investments, coming at a time when a lot of venture capital was holding back. (NewTeeVee)

Tony's Greek Theater?: With L.A. city officials staring at a $406 million deficit, the selling of naming rights was bound to come up. The 2008-2009 budget proposes hiring a media agency to inventory assets. Besides the Greek and the L.A. Zoo, there's also a bunch of golf courses and parks that could be put on sale. The money, however, is not huge; guitar maker Gibson is shelling out $1.4 million a year for naming rights to the Universal Amphitheatre in 2005. (LABJ)

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?
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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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