We're No. 1: L.A. gets the prize as the nation's most congested city, based on a study that included information from global positioning systems inside 800,000 taxis, trucks and delivery companies. The worst of the worst is Thursday from 5 to 6 p.m. From the Daily Breeze:
Tracking bottlenecks around Los Angeles, the study ranked the Hollywood (101) Freeway at Vermont Avenue as the worst for gridlock. Vehicles see about 83 hours of bottlenecks each week on the freeway, where cars crawl at 13.8 mph. The area ranked 10th nationwide. Second in L.A. was the northbound San Diego (405) Freeway at the Marina (90) Freeway near Marina del Rey, with about 81 hours of idling a week and travel speeds barely reaching 16.5 mph. The 101 Freeway at Alameda Street ranked No. 3, with 79 weekly hours of gridlock and speeds reaching 12.9 mph on average.
Gas and housing: There’s no point in buying a cheaper house in Lancaster or San Bernardino if you’re commuting into L.A. every day and having to shell out $5 a gallon for gas. The latest Dataquick numbers shows that home prices fell more sharply in the inland areas than for L.A. County as a whole. Up to now, foreclosures have been the main reason for the price drops (this is where a lot of subprime activity was going on), but energy costs could quickly become an impediment to any market turnaround. In case you missed it, May home sales in L.A. County fell 26.7 percent from a year earlier and the median price dropped 23.3 percent, to $422,000. (LAT)
Speaking of gasoline: The government's latest survey shows that the price shot up around 20 cents a gallon in one week (these are truly amazing stats). The average price in L.A. is now $4.611 a gallon. By the way, oil prices are way down this morning after almost hitting $140 in yesterday's trading. Trouble is, pump prices still have a ways to go before they catch up to where oil has been selling for. (AP)
Still-higher food bills?: The Midwest floods are quickly boosting the price of corn, which impacts everything from cereal to soda pop. The developing shortage is expected to increase competition for corn among farmers, food companies, ethanol refiners and exporters. From the LAT:
For now, cattle ranchers, pork farmers, dairies and other food producers will take the largest hit, said Michael Swanson, a Wells Fargo & Co. agricultural economist. "We have record prices for hogs and for cattle, but these prices aren't going to be high enough for the farmers to make any money because the price of corn is so high," he said. Barring a sudden turnaround in the corn markets, shoppers should expect to see the price of meat rise as farmers reduce the size of their herds to save money on feed.
Henry Nicholas pleads not guilty: The co-founder of OC chip maker Broadcom entered pleas on 21 counts of federal drug and securities fraud charges. A trial date was set for July 29. (AP)
Health costs to rise 10%: Rising hospital charges and costs for covering the uninsured are the major culprits, according to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers study. To control costs, look for employers to increase co-payments and deductibles or offer bonuses to employees who take steps to stay healthy. (Bloomberg)
"Soul Train" sold: MadVision Entertainment, an L.A. production company, is buying the rights to the long-running show from Don Cornelius. The new owners plan to open up the show’s archives for older consumers (it's never been available on DVD) and create a new version for younger ones. It's the first acquisition for MadVision. From the NYT:
MadVision, which was founded in 2006 by three urban media veterans, is best known for the Showtime stand-up comedy series “White Boyz in the Hood.” One of the founders of MadVision, Kenard Gibbs, is the group publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines. Another founder, Anthony Maddox, worked as a producer at NBC and ran Sean Combs’s Bad Boy Films. Mr. Griffith, the third partner, founded a hip-hop Web portal and worked with Vibe to extend the magazine’s brand.
Fresh & Easy opens more stores: After a three-month hiatus, the British-operated grocery chain will debut in Manhattan Beach on July 2. That will be followed by openings in North Las Vegas and Fountain Valley. Fresh & Easy's CEO says the chain might soon expand to the Midwest (stores are currently in California, Nevada and Arizona). From the OC Register's Nancy Luna:
Over the last several weeks, Fresh & Easy has made good on a promise to add more ready-to-heat meals and European-inspired deli items. These so called “meal solutions” have proven to be among the most popular items at Fresh & Easy, which entered the U.S. promising busy shoppers fresh foods and takeout meals in an easy to navigate store. On the new side: I’ve spotted everything from whole-cooked chickens to an expanded assortment of ready-to-grill meats to more fresh juices.
Lacter on radio: This morning's business chat with KPCC's Steve Julian covers the "Friends of Angelo" program at Countrywide and the misinformatioin about Ed McMahon's financial troubles. Available at kpcc.org or on podcast.