Thursday morning headlines

Stocks taking off: The markets are being helped along by Wells Fargo expecting to report record first-quarter profit. At last check, the index was back over 8000.

Wells in the black: Strong numbers from its mortgage business are behind the better-than-expected first-quarter profit. Industry-wide, January and February were apparently very solid, but March somewhat weaker. From the WSJ:

"The big banks with mortgage heavy exposure are going to do better because they are gaining market share, and there is a flight to quality and safety," said Fox-Pitt Kelton analyst Andrew Marquardt. "This confirms that a number of these big banks are in a fundamentally better position and are gaining market share from deposits, mortgages, lending and capital markets.

Remember the "stress test"?: You know, the government was going to examine the finances of the nation's biggest banks to see how vulnerable they would be if the recession worsened (which doesn't seem to be happening). Anyway, regulators are telling the NYT that the banks are in better shape than expected.

That is the good news. The bad news is that many of the largest American lenders, despite all those bailouts, probably need to be bailed out again, either by private investors or, more likely, the federal government. After receiving many millions, and in some cases, many billions of taxpayer dollars, banks still need more capital, these officials say.

Retail declines easing: March sales were still bad, but not quite as bad as they've been ("less worse" is becoming a familiar refrain among analysts). Wal-Mart did worse than analysts expected, while the Gap did better. Locally based Hot Topic, which specializes in teen fashion, had a strong quarter. (AP)

Another sign of a thaw: Venture capitalists are becoming a little more optimistic about the economy, according to the latest quarterly Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist Confidence Index. From the NYT's Bits:

Many venture investors told Mark V. Cannice, executive director of the University of San Francisco Entrepreneurship Program, that this is an ideal time to invest. Company valuations are low so investors can get a good deal, and there are more talented people on the market to start or work at young companies. "Big companies have cut back on product road maps and compensation and there is plenty of capital and strong talent available for new ventures," said Jeb Miller of JAFCO.

NBC's front-page ad: As Kevin reported last night at LAO, the LAT gave up a huge swath of its front page for an L-shaped advertisement promoting the network's new "Southland" series. From what I hear lots of objections throughout the newsroom, but publisher Eddy Hartenstein prevailed. From Variety:

According to NBC, the L.A. Times came up with the idea of promoting "Southland" - which takes place in Los Angeles, after all - via a front-page ad. "We thought it was an interesting, provocative, breakthrough idea," said NBC Entertainment marketing prexy Adam Stotsky. "Treating a fictional story in an editorial context for Angelenos inside the L.A. Times connected to our show." Stotsky said he knew that the L.A. Times would take some heat for the ad - and said both the network and newspaper took pains to "walk a fine line."

Pushing for C-17: Rep. Laura Richardson is among the local lawmakers trying the make a case that the Long Beach-made C-17 Globemaster should remain in production. It just so happens that Richardson represents Long Beach, and 5,000 jobs at the local Boeing plant are in jeopardy. The military has been trying to end the program, but supporters point to the potential for international sales. (Press-Telegram)

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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