Monday bloody Monday: That's how Clusterstock describes today's layoff carnage. At last check, a total of 61,000 jobs are being lost. Caterpillar alone is cutting 20,000 positions.
Bank lending declines: Kind of a confirmation of what we expected: Ten of the 13 big beneficiaries of government bailout money saw their loan balances fall by a total of $46 billion, according to a WSJ analysis. The banks say it takes time for them to start making prudent loans.
In a sign that banks are feeling political heat, Citigroup is expected to announce Tuesday a plan to use some of its TARP money to finance tens of billions of dollars in new loans this year, according to people familiar with the situation. The push will include credit cards, student loans and mortgages aimed at specific segments of the population, one person said. Of the $45 billion it got from the government, Citigroup last fall invested $10 billion in Fannie Mae's short-term commercial paper, which the company views as relatively low risk, according to the person familiar with the matter. The remaining $35 billion hasn't been put to use yet.
Thain will repay office cost: The ousted Merrill Lynch CEO says that his $1.2 million renovation a year ago was a "mistake," but he added that "the expenses were incurred over a year ago in a very different environment" (couldn’t he just say he was sorry?). From Bloomberg:
Thain has also been criticized for reporting a surprise $15.3 billion fourth-quarter loss and paying year-end bonuses to Merrill employees before the deal closed. He said in the memo that losses were “almost entirely on legacy positions and were due to market movements.” Bank of America “learned about these losses when we did,” Thain said, adding that the acting chief financial officer of the businesses that reported to Thain was Bank of America’s chief accounting officer.
Getting tough on pollution: Obama is directing federal regulators to set strict standards on California emissions. This would be a sharp reversal of Bush administration policy that turned down the state's efforts to tighten up its standards. From the NYT:
While it stops short of flatly ordering the Bush decision reversed, the agency’s regulators are now widely expected to do so after completing a formal review process. Once they act, automobile manufacturers will quickly have to retool to begin producing and selling cars and trucks that get higher mileage than the national standard, and on a faster phase-in schedule. The auto companies have lobbied hard against the regulations and challenged them in court.
Home Depot closes Expo: The design and remodeling centers (with a handful of Socal locations) didn't do all that well during the housing boom, so you can imagine what's been happening recently. The stores will close in the next two months and are expected to bear the brunt of 7,000 layoffs. (AP)
Bribery allegations: The County's D.A. office is looking into whether the Temple City mayor and two City Council members solicited money and a condo from a developer in exchange for their support of a $75-million mall project. The proposed project was approved by the council in 2006, but the development was later stalled. (LAT)
Slower Sundance action: Total sales are expected to match or even exceed last year's levels, but buyers have been especially careful. The documentary side seemed particularly soft. (NYT)
Slowdown on syndication front: Only four, possibly five, Monday-Friday series are being peddled at this week's NATPE gathering in Vegas. Ad forecasts have the local TV sector falling between 7 percent and 11 percent this year. (Variety)
Good berry year: California's strawberry growers produced a record 1.7 billion pounds in 2008, a 77-million-pound increase over 2007. More than a quarter of the state's crop comes from Ventura County. (Daily News)
Madoff home gets trashed: His Palm Beach home got hit with a barrage of toilet paper, and a bunch of teenagers called the Palm Beach Post newsroom to say they were responsible - they claimed they had lost their trust funds - and that they were sanctioned by their parents.