Signs of spending?: Retail sales fell last month, as expected, but much of the drop came from a plunge in car sales. Put that aside and some of the numbers were actually up a little. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart just reported a big increase in first-quarter earnings, in part because cash-strapped consumers are looking for deals. (NYT, AP)
Gas prices steady: The government's latest report shows that the average price of regular in L.A. is $3.898, up less than a penny from last week. It could be a pause - or perhaps an indication that demand is slowing significantly. Price hikes were bigger in other parts of the nation.
Markets still not normal: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke says there's more money moving around the financial markets, but still not enough to suit him, especially involving short-term funding. He made his remarks to the Atlanta Fed's annual conference in Sea Island, Georgia. From the WSJ:
Mr. Bernanke spent a good deal of his prepared remarks defending the Fed's extraordinary response to recent financial turmoil that included the collapse of the investment bank Bear Stearns Cos. The Fed agreed to finance $29 billion in Bear Stearns assets to facilitate its proposed takeover by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. Mr. Bernanke invoked the 19th century British writer and economist Walter Bagehot as being part of a "long intellectual lineage" concerning the idea that central banks should provide liquidity in times of crisis. Regarding the rescue and proposed takeover of Bear Stearns and the Fed's role, Mr. Bernanke said officials "judged that it was appropriate to use its emergency lending authorities...to avoid a disorderly closure of Bear."
Backing off on hedge funds: California has dropped a proposal to regulate the privately held funds after they threatened to leave the state. California is a center for hedge fund activity outside of NY, Connecticut and Dallas, but no one has exact figures. That's part of the problem. (Investment News)
Janitors deal: Under the tentative agreement, a janitor working in a downtown office building would be making an average salary of $29,328 by 2012. That compares with the current $24,960. Service Employees International Union Local 1877, which represents about 20,000 janitors around the state, called a labor action last week that involved walkouts and marches. (LAT)
SAG considers its moves: The Screen Actors Guild hasn't responded to an invitation from the networks and studios to resume negotiations May 28. It also hasn't yet decided whether to ask its 120,000 members for a strike authorization, which requires 75 percent approval. SAG has scheduled a town hall meeting to update members on the negotiations next Monday. (Variety)
Super-jet delays: Airbus is pushing back deliveries of its giant A380 aircraft by three months due to production problems. Qantas, which expects to begin A380 service out of LAX later this year, will be getting its first delivery in August. No word on what happens after that and whether this latest delay will impact flights into and out of L.A. (WSJ)
Lacter on radio: This morning's business chat with KPCC's Steve Julian covers the latest on home sales and the prospect of more store closures. Also available at KPCC.org or through podcast.