Wednesday morning headlines

Stocks higher: The zig-zag pattern continues in early trading, with the Dow up about 70 points. Apparently, there's optimism on Wall Street that a car bailout deal is near.

Mattress money: It's gotten to the point where investors are willing to pay for the security of T-bills. At one point yesterday the annualized yield on three-month Treasuries fell to negative 0.01 percent. That's right, folks - a negative return. Yields have since climbed back into positive territory. (LAT)

Hopeful signs?: Chapman University economist Esmael Adibi expects 2009 to be bad - but not as bad as 2008. He sees the state doing better than the nation as a whole because the recession began earlier in California. (OC Register)

Restaurant biz hurting: Food-service and drinking establishments have cut jobs for five straight months through November, the biggest stretch since the government began tracking such numbers in 1990. Since June, 66,500 jobs have been lost. From the WSJ:

Even experienced servers say they can't get work, and restaurants are turning away an unprecedented number of applicants. Waiters and waitresses who do have jobs say they're taking home less money in tips, because patrons are economizing by ordering less food and leaving a lower-percentage gratuity on their checks.

Daily Grill parent delists: Grill Concepts, whose stock routinely trades for under a buck a share, wants to go private. The Woodland Hills company, which also owns The Grill in Bev Hills, has been cutting costs for some months. (LABJ)

DirecTV holding up: The slowing economy hasn't made much of a dent for the El Segundo company (tells you something about consumer priorities). Fourth-quarter and full-year results are expected to show an increase over 2007. (AP)

Cost-cutting at Port of L.A.: A projected decline in shipments during the first quarter of 2009 is behind the move. All told, the current budget will be trimmed by more than $20.5 million. Shipments this year are expected to be down 5 percent from 2007. (Daily Breeze)

No more "perfect storms": The Wash Post's Steven Pearlstein doesn't think much of Sam Zell's explanation of why Tribune was forced into bankruptcy protection:

By last year, when he was negotiating for Tribune, was there anyone in America who didn't know that the Internet was stealing readers and advertisers from the mainstream media, eating away at profit margins and calling into question the business model on which the entire industry was based? Did he wonder why nobody else in the industry seemed anxious to bid for some of the country's best newspapers and broadcast stations? Had he not seen the flurry of articles in the financial press warning of ridiculously loose lending and over-leveraged deals? The only perfect storm to hit the Tribune was the one that resulted from the collision of Zell's ego, his arrogance and his utter ineptitude in running a media empire, along with a total disregard for the financial well-being of thousands of employees whose retirement assets he commandeered for a financing scheme that gave him control of the company while putting in very little of his own money.

More by Mark Lacter:
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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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