Wednesday morning headlines

One-day wonder: The market is back down this morning, with the Dow off more than 100 points in early trading. You didn't think yesterday's rally really meant anything, did you?

Murdoch after LAT?: Quoting News Corp. insiders, Variety is reporting that Rupert has been talking about a play for the Times, which is owned by Tribune Co., which is in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings. The speculation - and it seems to be just that - is that the departure of right-hand man Peter Chernin eliminates a modulating voice within News Corp. and could result in Murdoch going after more papers.

LAX activity falls: Domestic traffic in January dropped 10 percent from a year earlier, while the number of international travelers declined 14 percent. But that was nothing compared with Ontario, which saw a 31 percent plunge. Ontario relies on traffic from the Inland Empire, and we all know what the economy is like over there. From the LAT:

If trends continue, the drop-off could be so severe that one of the airport's two terminals would no longer be needed, a dramatic setback for Ontario's plan to accommodate more than 10 million passengers in the future. More than $275 million was spent building the terminals, which were financed with bonds. They opened in 1998. The continuing declines have put pressure on Ontario's airlines, which face the prospect of increasing landing fees and terminal rents.

Shattering myths: Steve Lopez gets at a few perennials: that California is the most heavily taxed state and that businesses leave because corporate taxes are too high. It ain't true.

"We're 17th," said Jean Ross, executive director of the nonpartisan California Budget Project. That means the residents of 16 states pay higher taxes than Californians. In an April 2008 report by Ross' group, California is called a "moderate tax state" based on the latest available figures. The report includes state and local taxes of all types in its computation, and rankings are based on taxation as a percentage of personal income. We tend to be higher on income taxes and lower on property taxes, Ross told me. We're also low on taxes for fuel and alcohol.

Valley home prices fall: Foreclosures helped drive down the median price in the SFV last month to $352,000, the lowest level in nearly six years - and down 47 percent from the record-high $660,000 reached in May 2007. (Daily News)

SEC probes lender: Point Center Financial President Dan Harkey says the SEC subpoenaed records related to a $25-million investment pool that funded construction loans. A bunch of investors filed suit against Harkey, accusing him of placing their money in risky construction loans and funneling profits to his wife's political campaigns. Harkey is married to Assemblywoman Diane Harkey. (LAT)

Music honchos get grilled: Ticketmaster's reselling subsidiary, TicketsNow, was under fire by lawmakers during a hearing that had as witnesses Live Nation CEO Michael Rupino and longtime manager Irving Azoff, the two guys who will be running things when/if the two companies merge. From Reuters:

"Personally, I don't believe there should be a secondary market at all. Scalping should be illegal," Azoff said. "I wouldn't have bought it." Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota expressed concern about the high and rising price of concert tickets. But Azoff and Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino argued that music piracy had changed the economics of the industry -- artists no longer toured to sell albums -- and the faltering U.S. economy worsened matters.

Schwarzenegger backs jobless plan: This would give California $844 million to fix the state's bankrupt system for paying unemployment benefits. Some were surprised by the move - a number of business organizations say that the expanded benefits could lead to higher taxes. (LAT)

Condť Nast faring worst: With luxury goods retailers pulling back in a big way, the media company is getting socked. The NY Post's Keith Kelly reports that while the industry is down 24 percent in ad pages so far this year, Portfolio is off by 60 percent and Wired 57 percent. That is raising more talk of cutbacks and even closings.

Daunting odds: Newspaper watcher Alan Mutter says that if the SF Chronicle had to cut enough jobs to offset its $50 million annual operating loss, nearly half of its 1,500 employees would be dismissed. The paper does have one thing going for it: a new long-term contract with a printing company that would require Hearst Co., which owns the Chron, to fork over some money if the paper folds. From Reflections of a Newsosaur:

Beyond cutting payroll at the Chronicle, other ways to reduce expenses would be further constricting the paperís already diminished circulation footprint, making additional cuts in the paperís already shrunken newshole and outsourcing such activities as editorial production, ad makeup and delivery.

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?
Recent stories:
Letter from Down Under: Welcome to the Homogenocene
One last Florida photo
Signs of Saturday: No refund
'I Am Woman,' hear them roar
Bobcat crossing
Previous story: Citi deal is near

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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
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