Weirdness of Wall Street: The market is way up this morning because J.P. Morgan's first-quarter earnings fell 50 percent. That would seem like bad news, but the bank's stock price is up four percent. You see, the decline was not as terrible as some had feared. Another boost came from Wells Fargo, which also reported bad but not horrible earnings.
Outrageous wealth: If you think Countrywide's Angelo Mozilo makes crazy money, consider John Paulson. Who? He's a hedge fund manager who last year raked in $3.7 billion, probably the richest payout in Wall Street history. Also in the $3 billion-dollar class were hedge fund managers James Simons and George Soros, according to Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine. To even make it into the top 25, you needed to earn at least $360 million. From the NYT:
Their unprecedented and growing affluence underscores the gaping inequality between the millions of Americans facing stagnating wages and rising home foreclosures and an agile financial elite that seems to thrive in good times and bad. Such profits may also prompt more calls for regulation of the industry. Even on Wall Street, where money is the ultimate measure of success, the size of the winnings makes some uneasy. “There is nothing wrong with it — it’s not illegal,” said William H. Gross, the chief investment officer of the bond fund Pimco. “But it’s ugly.”
Low-key SAG talks: The actors union and the media companies got contract talks going with a minimum of preambles and bluster. Bargaining will continue this morning at the headquarters of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. The two sides have not agreed to a news blackout (bad idea), but plan to limit their disclosure to jointly issued end-of-the-day statements for the next two weeks. (Variety)
Northrop takes charge: The L.A.-based defense contractor says it could be at least $320 million, the result of wiring problems that will delay delivery of a ship it’s building for the U.S. Navy (the company delayed delivery once before). The announcement sent shares down nearly 7 percent yesterday, but they're up a touch this morning. (AP)
Pellicano update: Today could be the day that powerhouse attorney Bert Fields finally takes the stand, presumably to explain why he hired the Hollywood private eye to do the dirty work he supposedly was unaware of. (DHD)
Giving up options: IndyMac CEO Michael Perry is turning in one million of his vested stock options, which is a nice gesture but not of financial consequence. All the options are way underwater (they had an exercise price of $24.41 a share and IndyMac stock is trading at under $4). By the way, no executives of Indymac sold stock or exercised options last year. Perry has agreed to step down and forgo any severance if he is not re-elected as a director when shareholders meet on May 1 in Pasadena for the annual meeting. (Money & Co., Footnoted.org)
Magic scores again: The Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund, co-founded by the former Lakers star, is expected to announce today a third round of financing for commercial developments in urban neighborhoods. Among the projects Canyon-Johnson has completed are construction of a retail and apartment complex in Hollywood and the replacement of Chicago's old police headquarters with condos and shops. From the LAT:
The need to upgrade urban centers is growing fast, said Bobby Turner, managing partner of the fund. The country's population is rising at a rate of 3 million annually, 90% of whom will be immigrants or people of color. Many of them head to urban centers with large minority populations. "Demand for affordable housing and community-serving retail is only going to increase," Turner said. The continuing global credit crunch will limit the ability of some developers to get financing and further aggravate the gap between supply and demand, he predicted.
Hollywood to the ports: The three-day march of union activists continues today with a rally at the Vermont Knolls County Administration Building. Then it's on to Torrance, where they will hold another rally in front of a Wal-Mart. The march, which ends Thursday at the Port of Los Angeles, was organized by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor to bring attention to upcoming contract negotiations for a variety of unions.