Thursday morning headlines

Market keeps falling: So much for the stimulus plan being cheered on Wall Street. The Dow is off 150 points in early trading, with one head trader calls the spending compromise "a little bit of a wet blanket." (AP)

Big foreclosure month: One in every 173 homes in California received a foreclosure filing last month, second highest in the nation (Nevada was tops). As usual, a bunch of metro areas in the state had high foreclosure rates, among them Merced, Riverside-San Bernardino, Modesto and Stockton. Here's the release. From Bloomberg:

“Workout programs can help some people who intend to stay in the house, but the big problem is people who don’t want to carry an underwater house,” Robert Van Order, adjunct professor of finance at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and former chief economist at Freddie Mac, said in an interview. “Negative equity is not going away soon.”

Factoid of the day: Nearly 700 Merrill Lynch employees received bonuses last year of at least $1 million each, part of a pool that totaled $3.6 billion. Merrill has a total of 39,000 employees. From the NYT:

If that $3.6 billion had been evenly disbursed among Merrill’s work force each person would have received about $91,000. Instead, the top four bonus recipients received a total of $121 million, Mr. Cuomo wrote. One of them was Thomas K. Montag, who now runs global markets at Bank of America, The Times reported, citing a person with knowledge of the matter. Mr. Montag was given a contract worth $39 million when he moved to Merrill from Goldman Sachs last year.

Big solar deal: Edison International, parent of Southern California Edison, has signed a deal to receive solar power from a bunch of mirrors, towers and turbines to be installed in the Mojave Desert. An Oakland company called BrightSource Energy will build and run the plants. The solar arrays on a sunny day would supply enough electricity to power about 845,000 homes. From the NYT:

The companies acknowledged that several hurdles would have to be surmounted before the first surge of electricity flows from the desert — in theory around 2013 — toward power-hungry cities more than 200 miles away. First is approval by the state Public Utilities Commission. But more challenging, they said, is a series of permits for improving transmission lines. That process in the past has taken seven to 10 years per project, said Stuart R. Hemphill, vice president for renewable and alternative power for the utility.

Viacom earnings tumble: Weakness in advertising and consumer spending continue to hurt the parent of Paramount Pictures. Revenue at the filmed-entertainment segment fell 1.6 percent. Meanwhile, Viacom head Sumner Redstone says he's close to resolving his debt problems that have helped bring down Viacom stock. (DJ)

Speaking of debt: The big commercial brokerage CB Richard Ellis is likely to ask for a break on repaying its loans. The L.A.-based company has a debt of $500 million coming due in the next two years and is required to maintain certain levels of cash flow in order to meet its obligations. Falling revenue could make that hard. (LAT)

More delays for Grand Avenue: Developer Related Cos., which can't get financing to begin the mega-billion dollar downtown project, wants to make revisions in its deal with the city and county. Related agreed to pay penalties if ground wasn't broken by Feb. 15, but apparently that deadline has been extended. (LAT)

Katzenberg clarifies: As chairman of the Motion Picture and Television Fund, he took the blame for failing to adequately explain why the organization's acute care hospital and long-term care facility were being shut down. Other parts of the operation, including the independent and assisted-care facilities, will stay open. From Variety:

Katzenberg admitted that the Jan. 14 surprise announcement had created the mistaken impresssion that all MPTF facilities would be shuttered. "Nothing could be further from the truth," he added. MPTF leaders have been scrambling for the past month to defuse the town's frustration over the closures, pointing to growing financial pressures that have forced the fund to change its operating strategy while emphasizing that most of the org's other operations will remain open.

More by Mark Lacter:
American-US Air settlement with DOJ includes small tweak at LAX
Socal housing market going nowhere fast
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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