LA Biz Observed archive

Mark Lacter covered business, the economy and more here from 2006 until his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
The entire LA Biz Observed archive — more than 10,000 blog posts by Mark — remains online and available.
March 2009

Obama folks drive foreign

All right, it's a little on the gotcha side, but doesn't the absence of U.S.-made cars parked at the White House speak volumes?

King of foreclosures

Leo Nordine has been tapping into the lucrative foreclosure market, although he seems to roll with whatever happens to be hot in real estate.

Tuesday morning headlines

Bulls and bears duke it out, L.A. home prices keep falling, Disney cruises to L.A., and Karatz pleads not guilty.

Measuring the market

Main Street people are a lot happier - and a lot more tempted to buy a sweater - if the Dow is up 400 points rather than down 400 points.

KB's not awful news

The L.A.-based homebuilder reported a first-quarter loss of $58.1 million, somewhat improved from the net loss of $268.2 million a year ago.

Home sweet home

Candy Spelling is selling her French chateau-style mansion for the modest sum of $150 million (well, modest by Washington standards).

Meruelo Maddux Chapter 11

Excluded from the filing is the company's 35-story 717 W. Ninth Street residential tower project currently under construction.

No morning headlines

I'm in deadline frenzy on a couple of projects, so very light posting through next week....

Billboards not all bad

The controversy reflects the ineptitude of city officials in regulating signage and not the aesthetics of the billboards themselves.

First, do no harm

The stimulus plan should focus on homes, cars, retail and restaurants because that's where most of the damage has come from.

Wednesday morning headlines

Stocks keep climbing, UCLA economists see continued high unemployment, bond sale a success, and Dov Charney on a buying spree.

Can Geithner plan work?

Nobody knows, everybody is guessing, and the economy hangs in the balance. Cocktails anyone?

The Candy Indicator

Americans have been consuming growing volumes of Mary Janes, Tootsie Rolls and Gummy Bears, and it's being tied to the recession.

State bonds snapped up

Nothing like 6 percent yields - tax-exempt - to get the attention of investors, especially when you can hardly get half that with a CD.

Taking stock of rally

The big question is whether this marks the end of the bear market, or at least the beginning of the end. There's a case on both sides.

Monday morning headlines

Scrap metal prices fall, feds seize credit union, and appelate court nixes parts of ports plan.

Geithner's big day

The Treasury Secretary announces the Public-Private Investment Program, which will provide $500 billion in financing to buy toxic bank assets, with the potential of expanding later to as much as $1 trillion. Up to $100 billion will come from the existing bailout known as TARP, along with the share provided by private investors. From the NYT: The plan relies on private investors to team with the government to relieve banks of assets tied to loans...

Layoffs at Register

Publisher Terry Horne says they'll be happening over the next few weeks, across all departments, but no number was given.

Jobless rate inches up

February unemployment in L.A. County was 10.9 percent, a half point higher than the revised 10.4 percent level for January.

Friday morning headlines

Travel and tourism way down, Southwest sparks fare war, Ticketmaster loses big, and Countrywide sues AIG (no joke).

AIG witch hunt continues

When people are looking for scapegoats, the letter of the law apparently takes a back seat.

Catching the Prez

With Santa Monica Boulevard closed off this morning, there was really no point trying to get anywhere, so I just pulled over.

Thursday morning headlines

Some AIG executives return the money, SD paper is bought on the cheap, still no action on billboards, and downtown developer gets sued.

*Odds on Geithner exit

Still seems like long odds (Obama just affirmed his confidence in Geithner), but he's clearly on the watch list.

Seamy sidelight to U-T deal

Buying the Union-Tribune will give Platinum Equity much higher visibility, which might be unfortunate for founder Tom Gores.

Port of LB takes hit

February's drop in Long Beach was even worse than at the Port of L.A. (and that was pretty awful).

Printing more money

The Federal Reserve will purchase an additional $750 billion worth of government-guaranteed mortgage-backed securities.

Wednesday morning headlines

AIG CEO getting grilled, Madoff's accountant charged, California ranks last for business, and Zucker defends CNBC.

Another big market rally

After lackluster trading for most of the session, the Dow finished the day up 178 points, to just under 7400.

Exit strategy for Geithner

The AIG mess doesn't exactly help the already precarious state of the Treasury Secretary's tenure.

L.A. prices under 300K

February's median price in L.A. County was $299,000, a 35 percent drop from a year earlier. Sales jumped 32.4 percent.

Tuesday morning headlines

Big gift for Music Center, fraud cases decline, jobless benefits bill is defeated, and layoffs at WGA.

P-I to stop printing

Tomorrow will be the last printed edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which will become a Web-only publication.

New slant in Bratz case

Mattel's claim to a $100 million judgment and the rights to the popular doll could be in question.

Monday morning headlines

Getty Trust cuts budget, Clinton leaves Burkle partnership, MGM Mirage on chopping block, and Caruso might go after Santa Anita.

Port traffic plunges

Officials had warned of serious declines in inbound traffic, but Iím not sure anyone was anticipating a drop of 35.3 percent.

Friday morning headlines

Countrywide purchase looking good, Stewart crushes Cramer, big shakeup at Fox, and American Apparel to sell 20 percent stake.

Waters and her conduct

Her effort to get government money for OneUnited Bank is the latest slant on questionable conduct that's been going on for years.

Madoff's new life

As the swindler awaits sentencing on June 16, he'll be put away in the 12-story Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan.

Bank woes for Waters

The L.A. congresswoman is under fire (sort of) for her outlandish and long-standing conflicts involving OneUnited bank.

*Madoff jailed

"I am actually grateful for this opportunity to publicly comment about my crimes, for which I am deeply sorry and ashamed," he tells judge.

Thursday morning headlines

Big climb in foreclosures, parking lot king in trouble, Tom Hanks tries to restart SAG talks, and Vegas getting hammered.

Billionaire bust

Last year there were 1,125 of them in the world. Today there are 793, according to the latest Forbes numbers, just out this afternoon.

Layoff roundup

The WSJ's L.A. bureau is losing a few staffers, the Seattle P-I could close next week, and the Miami Herald cuts 19 percent of its staff.

Madoff's London office

Madoff Securities International appears to have been at the center of the swindler's money laundering activities.

Wednesday morning headlines

Market cooling down, Riverside's Fleetwood Enterprises files Chapter 11, Disney investors turn down pay plan, and age bias claims increase.

The hidden homeless

For many motel occupants, such as the Hayworth family, this is their last chance before hitting the streets or a shelter.

Karatz never sat still

ďWhen youíre constantly told youíre great... itís hard to escape the feeling that success is your natural right,Ē he warned USC graduates.

Madoff's guilty plea

So why is Bernie forgoing a trial or a plea deal? One day we'll get the skinny, but for now the move has caught many by surprise.

No time to celebrate

As for today's big gain, all I can say is be afraid - be very afraid that a brief run-up will lead to an even bigger sell-off.

Money meltdown 101

The money guys from "This American Life" will headline a live stage show on April 19th at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica.

Tuesday morning headlines

Stocks gain some ground, cities grapple with drop in property tax collections, Disney gets downgrade, and gas back up.

P-I deathwatch

It's looking like Wednesday will be the final print edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. At least that's the latest semi-informed guess.

House hunting in Beverly Park

Even by L.A. standards, it's an oversized repository of ridiculous wealth, home to movie stars, athletes, and a plastic surgeon or two.

Monday morning headlines

New concerns about credit markets, Buffett says economy has "fallen off a cliff," and lawmakers wine and dine during fiscal emergency.

Santa Anita owner blew it

Here's another case where an unwillingness to change with the times has doomed the best of intentions.

The new normalcy

Day by day, itís becoming dreadfully apparent that this downturn will result in a fundamental restructuring of many U.S. industries,

Friday morning headlines

Stocks are fading, classic response to Karatz indictment, I-News at the Daily News, and Sabans help restore Wilshire Theatre.

Early read on jobs report

February's numbers pretty much match the bleak expectations of economists. It's another sign of a slow recessionary slog.

SEC sues for fraud

The feds are accusing Bruce Friedman of operating an "ongoing fraudulent investment scheme" involving at least $17 million.

*Karatz indictment

The former CEO of L.A.-based KB Home is charged with conspiring to defraud the homebuilder and shareholders.

*Terrible day for stocks

The Dow fell 281 points, to 2594. Citigroup closed at $1.02 (at one point it was actually trading at under a dollar!).

SEC closing in on Mozilo

The Daily Journal is reporting that the former CEO of Countrywide Financial could soon face civil fraud charges.

Liquidation news

The Linens ín Things name and Internet domain has been purchased by a couple of investment firms. The plan is to resume an online site.

Initial vibes on Prop 8

The tea leaf reading cannot be encouraging to those wanting to see the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage be overturned.

Law firm layoffs

The L.A.-based firm is letting go 90 lawyers, or 10 percent of its workforce. As at other firms, the area most likely impacted is transactions.

Stunning numbers

Many months into the financial collapse, some numbers still take one's breath away. As in Citigroup at $1.04 a share and GM at $1.83.

Jon Stewart's rant

Doesn't CNBC know that just about the worst thing you can do is agree to appear on "The Daily Show" and then back out?

Thursday morning headlines

GM auditors raise warnings, stocks back down after yesterday's gains, Wal-Mart hangs tough as others struggle, and THQ cutting costs.

Northrop plans layoffs

The L.A. aerospace giant will consolidate its administrative staff in Redondo Beach and El Segundo. But it's also hiring.

Celebrating too soon

Supporters of Measure B, the solar panel initiative, thought their side was going to win late last night. Surprise!

*Big day on Wall Street

Don't want to speak too soon, but with an hour or so to go the Dow is up more than 200 points.

Changes at Jack in the Box

The San Diego-based fast food chain is announcing a new logo and the makeover of more than 2,000 restaurants.

Wednesday morning headlines

Market tries comeback (again), biz-related measure goes down, Manny deal could be close, and El Centro is Ground Zero for recession.

NYT does PennyMac

The Calabasas-based firm that buys up delinquent home mortgages was started by the former president of Countrywide Financial.

Sorry. no rebound

We're not even at the "show me" stage, where there's at least an openness to consider the possibility of a turnaround.

Quitting time in the NBA

Is it possible that more than 80 percent of the league's 30 teams have no realistic shot at winning the championship?

Tuesday morning headlines

Market struggles to recover, big drop in local gas prices, Hayward solar company strikes deal, and Live Nation reports another loss.

Read if you dare

Thereís practically zero confidence of a breakthrough in the economy any time soon. No confidence, no reason to buy stocks.

Banking 101

The problem isn't really about bum mortgages or overpaid executives - it's about a nation that's drowning in debt.

Dow loses 300 points

Nobody wants to reenter the market because the prevailing view is that things will get worse before they get better.

Monday morning headlines

Dow falls under 7000, local ports keep struggling, grocers take aim at food companies, and car dealers have hit the skids.