Careful spending: Both Wal-Mart and Costco reported better-than-expected sales in May, but it could just mean that more consumers are watching their pennies. Lower-priced gas has been a particular draw. Other big chains fared worse - Gap Inc. posted a 14 percent decline, with its Old Navy chain tumbling 25 percent. May sales are being examined carefully because it's when consumers began receiving those rebate checks. (Bloomberg)
Housing inventory declines: L.A. saw a 3.3 percent drop last month in the number of homes listed for sale. That falls in line with other areas that have been struggling - Phoenix, Tucson, Vegas - and is another sign that the market might be leveling off a little. The data from ZipRealty cover listings of single-family homes, condos and town houses on local multiple-listing services. (WSJ)
Continental cuts: It's the latest carrier to announce big layoffs (3,000 jobs) and capacity reductions (retiring 67 Boeing aircraft from its fleet). The problem, at Continental and the other airlines, is that the business model just doesn't work - even after raising fares and jamming planes. At current prices, Continental will be paying $2.3 billion more for jet fuel than in 2007. (NYT)
Speaking of fuel: Oil priced at $120 a barrel or thereabouts is a considerable drop from its $135 high, but it will only result in a modest decline at the pump - perhaps just a few pennies. Crude would have to reach $100 for there to be a 50 cent-a-gallon drop in the price of gas, oil analyst Stephen Schork told the WSJ. The good news is that you won't be seeing any more huge runups - for the moment.
L.A. to sue Time Warner Cable: The City Attorney's office will accuse the company of making false and misleading statements to subscribers when it took over most of the area's cable service. As you may recall, TWC was overwhelmed by the switchover, which resulted in endless waits for customer service and repair work. The company could face civil penalties of tens of millions of dollars.
From the LAT:
Time Warner became the major cable TV provider in the area when it joined with Comcast Corp. in 2006 to buy out bankrupt Adelphia Communications Corp. Time Warner and Comcast then swapped franchises so each would dominate markets in different U.S. regions. The combination was difficult because Time Warner Cable had to upgrade the old Adelphia and Comcast systems and merge them with its own. Nearly 500,000 subscribers in the city were affected. In the suit, which focuses on service from the fall of 2006 to the spring of 2007, city prosecutors cite brochures and television advertisements that they say gave the false impression that pricing for cable and Internet services would stay the same.
SAG or Hillary?: For some weeks, I've wondered which one would give in first, and it looks like we have a winner. The Screen Actors Guild meets again today with the studios, but there’s no breakthrough in sight. Variety's Dave McNary reports that SAG’s executive committee will meet soon to consider taking a strike authorization vote. Of course, the union needs approval from 75 percent of its membership, and with many actors not wanting to strike, there's no certainty they'll hit that threshold. The contract expires June 30.
Studios may owe actors: We're talking more than $10 million in back pay as a result of being thrown out of work during the writers strike. The LAT's Richard Verrier reports that SAG has lodged claims against more than 80 shows. The union says that their contract entitles actors to receive roughly 2 -1/2 weeks' pay if they are suspended due to extraordinary circumstances such as a strike.
SAG filed its claims in February, shortly after the writers strike ended. The 122,000-member union has demanded that the matter be reviewed by a third-party arbitration panel, which will have final say. A ruling, however, may take at least six months, providing little relief to actors who faced financial hardships caused by a strike that was not their own.
Sony buys game show company: It's the Dutch TV production company 2waytraffic that owns "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and a bunch of other game and reality shows. Purchase price is $223.5 million. Sony has been looking to expand its reality portfolio, and 2waytraffic has programs that are not only broadcast but delivered via broadband and mobile. (Variety)
Changes for Redondo pier: Call it a sign of the times. Tony's Fish Market, which has been serving seafood specials for nearly 40 years, will be closing to make way for a fancy-dancy Japanese/French restaurant. Tony's companion restaurant - Tony's on the Pier, which dates to 1952 - will survive. Both Tony's were started by Tony Trutanich, a former fisherman and longtime pier businessman who died last year at 84. (Daily Breeze)