Monday morning headlines

Market still climbing: The Dow is up about 80 points in early trading. But skeptics are still calling the run-up a sucker’s rally.

Bernanke speaks: His "60 Minutes" interview didn't offer much in the way of news, other than the fact that it happened at all (the Fed chairman normally doesn't do TV). Here's the nub of his comments to Scott Pelley:

(BERNANKE) We’ll see the recession coming to an end probably this year. We’ll see recovery beginning next year. And it will pick up steam over time.

(PELLEY ) you think the recession is going to end this year?

(BERNANKE ) In the sense that this decline will begin to moderate and we’ll begin to see leveling off. We won’t be back to full employment. But we will see, I hope, the end of these declines that have been so–so strong in a last couple of quarters.

(PELLEY:) But you wouldn’t say at this point that we’re out of the woods?

(BERNANKE ) No. I think the key issue is the banking system and the financial system.

Getty Trust cuts budget: The world's richest arts institution still has $4.5 billion in its portfolio, but that's a $1.5 billion drop from July. As a result, the operating budget is being slashed by 25 percent. From the LAT:

Together, the museums drew 1.6 million visitors in 2008. Admission is free, although parking costs $10. [President James] Wood said the Getty's leaders and trustees would decide by the end of May what reductions to make. Although declining to specify possible cuts, he said that maintaining free admission was "a terribly important priority" because charging would be "a nasty socioeconomic curve" to throw to the less-affluent visitors the Getty aims to include.

Focus on Ruth Madoff: Feds are trying to freeze the assets of Bernie’s wife because they fear she'll try to flee the country or stash the nearly $93 million in her name, the NY Post reports. U.S. attorneys will be going to court in the next week or two.

Ruth, 67, voluntarily agreed to freeze her assets shortly after her hubby was arrested, but the verbal agreement is not legally binding and investigators want to make sure she doesn't try to squirrel anything away now that Bernie has pleaded guilty. Sources close to Ruth said she and her lawyers expect the filing to be imminent. Law-enforcement sources also told The Post that the asset freeze would be just the first step in a one-two punch against her as prosecutors work furiously to build a criminal case.

Clinton leaves Burkle partnership: The former president will end his advisory role to two domestic investment funds run by Burkle's closely held L.A.-based Yucaipa Cos. Additionally, he was a partner in a foreign fund. All told, Clinton is walking away from a final payment that at one time was estimated to run as high as $20 million (perhaps lower by now because of the financial meltdown). (WSJ)

MGM Mirage on chopping block: Potential buyers have been sizing up a purchase of the Bellagio casino and the MGM Grand Detroit, reports the WSJ. The debt-strapped company that's majority owned by Bev Hills billionaire Kirk Kerkorian is struggling to avoid default. "Basically everything MGM owns is for sale," an unnamed source tells the Journal.

The Las Vegas-based company has $1.27 billion in bond payments due later this year, in addition to about $674 million in existing interest payments. Conditions have gotten dire as MGM's annual cash flow has tumbled to an estimated $1 billion this year from roughly $2 billion in 2007, say people familiar with the matter. On Friday, the company was negotiating with a group of lending banks to hand up to $2 billion in liens directly on MGM Mirage assets, those people said. That would put the banks ahead of other creditors, largely bondholders, should the company file for bankruptcy protection. Such a move could eventually force MGM to hand over certain properties to the banks.

Will Caruso go for Santa Anita?: He's considering buying the park from Magna Entertainment, which has filed for bankruptcy. Not that Caruso really wants to get into the horse race biz - it's just that he needs to protect his $500 million shopping mall planned for the track’s parking lot. From the Business Journal:

In addition, a group of leading Southern California thoroughbred owners met last week to discuss making a possible bid for the track, one of just a handful in the region. “We’re very concerned,” said Marsha Naify, chair of the Thoroughbred Owners of California’s board, which is exploring the acquisition. “Santa Anita is the crown jewel of racing in California. We’re looking to see how we can keep it within the racing industry.”

One California Plaza up for sale: The 42-story Bunker Hill office tower is jointly owned by Maguire Properties and Macquarie Office Trust. The Australian-based Macquarie posted big losses last year. (Downtown News)

More by Mark Lacter:
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Those awful infographics that promise to explain and only distort
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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.
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