Wednesday morning headlines

Wall Street meandering: Kind of directionless in the opening 90 minutes. Lots of earnings reports to pick apart.

CA cities on foreclosure top 10: They're the usual suspects: Merced has the second highest-rate of foreclosures, followed by Stockton (4), Riverside-San Bernardino (5), Modesto (6), Bakersfield (7), and Vallejo (10). Topping the overall list is Vegas, with one foreclosure for every 22 homes. (

Fresh & Easy update: The British-owned small-format grocery chain is still expanding (its 64th store opens today in Corona) - and parent company Tesco is still predicting success. But the chain lost $200 million last year on sales of $300 million. From the LAT:

Fresh & Easy's small stores and limited selection have trouble siphoning families, and their big grocery tabs, from the larger, entrenched supermarkets, said Jim Prevor, a food industry analyst who edits, a website about perishable food retailing. And the stores don't offer enough ethnic and specialty foods to be competitive in the diverse neighborhoods of big cities, he said.

Hilton probe: Nasty allegations that the Bev Hills-based chain used information taken from rival Starwood Hotels to create a new luxury-hotel brand. (Remember that Hilton is now owned by private-equity firm Blackstone Group.) From the WSJ:

The subpoena comes days after Starwood filed a lawsuit in federal district court in White Plains, N.Y., alleging that former Starwood executives smuggled more than 100,000 pages of confidential and proprietary documents out of Starwood before they took high-profile jobs at Hilton. Starwood claims Hilton used the information to create its Denizen brand. Hilton has said the lawsuit "is without merit" and that it will vigorously defend itself.

Northrop profit jumps 50%: The L.A.-based aerospace company handily beat expectations. It was helped by higher sales of its electronic systems and progress made in its shipbuilding sector. (AP)

Will Kerkorian sell MGM Mirage?: Anything to fend off activist investor Carl Icahn - at least that's what the NY Post is reporting. Icahn, who owns a big chunk of MGM Mirage's debt, is pushing the casino company to file for bankruptcy. Already, several of its non-Vegas properties are on the block.

Hollywood comes to Washington: Studio honchos were part of an industry summit put on by the Motion Picture Association of America. The message delivered to lawmakers: Entertainment is a very big deal for the economy. From Variety:

The unspoken event hovering over the gathering: In February, the industry lost $246 million in tax breaks when the Senate altered the economic stimulus bill, eliminating a key provision. The reason: Republican lawmakers agreed that Hollywood didn't need the bailout given the previous month's record-breaking B.O.

Laren Conrad joins Kohl's: The star of MTV's hit reality series "The Hills," has a new California casual clothing line that the department store chain will be carrying, beginning this fall. It's part of the retailer's strategy of acquiring well-known brands (or brands by well-known people) and selling them at low prices. From the NYT:

It is a model that its higher scale competitor Target has used to its advantage and that Wal-Mart has struggled to master. Last year, exclusive and private brands at Kohl's -- like Simply Vera by Vera Wang; Elle, which is named for the women's fashion magazine; and Food Network -- accounted for more than 40 percent of the company's sales. In March, when sales at most of the nation's department stores open at least a year fell by double digits, sales at comparable Kohl's stores fell a modest 4.3 percent.

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
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