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.
January 2010

Californians in the dark

How are voters supposed to make intelligent decisions about who to elect if they don't know how the place works?

Voice of reason

That would be L.A.'s top budget analyst, who is talking about more layoffs and consolidation. Here's betting it won't happen.

City chokes on cuts

All of a sudden, the mayor and several council members are questioning whether the city really needs to let anybody go.

Why GDP is wrong

A different economic indicator, one you might not have heard of, has production doing well, but not employment, housing and consumer spending.

Toyota count: 9 million

The total number of vehicles affected by potential problems with floor mats or gas pedals. That's nearly as many vehicles sold last year in the U.S.

Opening of W Hollywood

W.jpg LAT critic Christopher Hawthorne calls the $600-million complex "equal parts Chateau Marmont, L.A. Live and Pershing Square."

Jekyll-Hyde banking

Bankers are saying all the right things in public, but the behind-the-scenes chit-chat is a whole lot different.

Friday morning headlines

L.A. details budget cuts, Burkle goes after Barneys, trouble for CA teachers fund, and questioning "January Barometer."

GDP jump in Q4

The 5.7 percent annual rate of growth is the highest quarterly showing in six years.

More doubts on iPad

ipad1.jpg "It's kind of like an iPhone and Kindle had a baby, and pumped it full of steroids," says one observer.

*Bernanke wins big vote

The Senate just voted 77-23 to end debate on the nomination of Ben Bernanke for a second four-year term as Fed chairman.

Nicholas charges tossed

The case that started off with sensational allegations of drug use and illicit sex ends with no convictions.

Aren't Republicans lame?

state1.jpg Their decision to sit on their hands as Obama was proposing bank taxes may turn out to be a questionable strategy.

Toyota close on repair

If the feds sign off on the fix, production could begin next week and dealers could be getting the new part within the next two weeks.

Thursday morning headlines

Tracing Toyota's pedal defect, Bernanke vote could come today, CA gets choo-choo bucks, and Juicy girls are gone.

Those were the days

Believe it or not, the iPhone has only been around three years.

Will Crazy Gideon close?

crazy.jpg Auction is scheduled for Saturday. After that, the downtown electronics store will shut down for good. We think.

If accelerator sticks...

Toyota advises drivers to step on the brake pedal with both feet and shift into neutral if they need to come to an immediate stop.

iPad pricing

The most obvious question is why would I need this, but we were saying the same thing when the iPhone came out.

L.A. foreclosures tumble

This could be more evidence that the worst of the housing slump is over, but it could also be the calm before another wave of foreclosures.

Apple's iPad

CEO Steve Jobs introduces the tablet-like device in SF this morning.

Wednesday morning headlines

Apple's big day, growing foreclosure backlog, LAX loses passengers, and Martha changing channels.

Apple hooked on iPhone

apple.jpg It generates more revenue than any other Apple product - including desktop and portable computers - combined.

Pot vote hits economy

pot.jpg We are talking about jobs and leased space - not to mention a cash crop that's responsible for revenues of $14 billion a year statewide.

College grads vs. dropouts

L.A., with its large immigrant community, doesn't come out so well in its numbers of high school dropouts. It's even worse than Vegas and Miami.

Marathon gets sponsor

marathon.jpg Honda becomes the title sponsor of the L.A. Marathon.

Loebs looking for bloggers

An online category has been added to business journalism's version of the Pulitzers: Online Commentary and Blogging.

Saab lives

The Swedish car company will be acquired by Spyker Cars, a tiny Dutch maker of sports cars.

Tuesday morning headlines

Home prices are rising, consumer confidence improves, truckers banned from texting, and the latest on the Oscar race.

Rappin' with Keynes

Complete with nerds, babes, limos and champagne. Whoever said economists were dull?

Singleton omissions

The Denver Post may not be the best place to get the complete story on the recent bankruptcy filing by the parent of MediaNews Group.

Ranking 'Avatar'

avatar.jpg So is it about to become the best-selling movie in the history of the world or what?

Comcast gears up

This is going to be a very complicated, very drawn-out process, if for no other reason than all the players involved.

Live Nation deal approved

The concert promoter's giant merger with Ticketmaster has passed antitrust scrutiny, save for a few minor conditions.

Free tickets

Financial columnist Jane Bryant Quinn and Republican candidate Meg Whitman will headline the Drucker Business Forum this week and next.

No debate about economy

Hard to believe that you could get 94 percent of California voters agreeing on anything, but then again the state's budget woes are pretty extraordinary.

Monday morning headlines

Bernanke gains support, L.A. billionaire to leave company, what Leno cost KNBC, and iPhone expected to get Verizon service.

*Message for Obama

It's crunch time, Mr. President - on health care and everything else. So what's it going to be?

Running out of cash

budget.jpg State Controller John Chiang says that by April 1, California will actually be in the red by $197 million.

More hope for housing

Unsold inventory state-wide reached a five-year low in December, and the inventory is falling at all price points.

Boxer opposing Bernanke

"It is time for a change," she said. "It is time for Main Street to have a champion at the Fed."

Hailing in Westwood

The size of baby peas, they're bouncing around my office courtyard. If you haven't been out lately, the atmosphere is very unstable. And it's chilly....

Little change for L.A. jobs

Many economists expected unemployment to peak sometime in the fourth quarter - and it looks like that will be the case.

Friday morning headlines

NBCU profits plummet, MGM preps for bankruptcy, Oxy goes oil exploring in Iraq, and Freedom bankruptcy plan approved.

CA loses 38,800 jobs

The December job loss was the largest of any state - and an increase from the 10,200 jobs lost in November.

Dealing with L.A. deficit

jan1.jpg L.A. Councilwoman Jan Perry says it's time to get serious about cutting costs. She's talking about layoffs, outsourcing and a hiring freeze.

Why worry about stocks

barons.jpg Understanding that nobody knows anything, there is some reason to believe that the market's two-day bender may signal trouble.

Big Toyota recall

All told,2.3 million U.S. vehicles are involved. The automaker needs to correct sticking accelerator pedals.

Obama's bank plan

Commercial banks would no longer be able to invest on behalf of the bank itself. Big losses from investments played a huge role in the credit meltdown.

Enquirer right again

edwards.jpg Boy, it sure must be lonely working at a place where you break all kinds of stories, but seldom get any recognition.

Most popular password

Try "123456." Other throwaways include "abc123," "iloveyou" or even "password." You might as well just say: Hack me."

Thursday morning headlines

Another bad day for stocks, Conan deal is done, Live Nation might sell assets, and L.A. could face more layoffs.

Court throws out donor laws

High court overturns a 20-year-old ruling that essentially prohibits companies from using their own money to contribute to campaigns.

High-end worries

retire.jpg Folks with some money are not all that different from everyone else when it comes to concerns about retirement and the economy.

Loyalty thing not working

It won't happen for political parties, just as it won't happen for laundry detergents, talk shows hosts or phone carriers.

Oscar's voting nightmare

oscar1.jpg Now that it's time to cast ballots, Academy voters are struggling to come up with 10 best picture nominations.

Why salesmanship counts

obama.jpg Republicans consider Obama to be a disaster because of how the economy has been handled. But theirs is a concocted reality.

Wednesday morning headlines

Stocks down sharply, bank earnings show some promise, still waiting for Conan announcement, and FHA requires higher downpayments. to start charging

Starting in early 2011, online visitors will only have access to a certain number of free articles per month

'Avatar' pulled in China

avatar.jpg Sounds like an old story about the iron hand of Chinese government, right? Well, yes and no.

Zero accountability

zucker.jpg Making his palsied defense of the Leno disaster on the Charlie Rose show, NBC's Jeff Zucker perfectly captures a "too big to fail" attitude.

More nails for health bill

New poll shows 46 percent believe the health care bill is a bad idea. Meanwhile, the word from Massachusetts is not good for the Democrats.

Housing market opens up

Sales and prices picked up in higher-end places like Bev Hills, Santa Monica and Newport Beach. Trend or blip?

Still shooting for moon

What is it about investors who keep insisting that they can generate annual returns of 12 or 13 percent - safely?

Tuesday morning headlines

Conan's $40 million deal, big loss at Citigroup, state to ease HMO waits, and junk bonds rule.


Election watcher Stu Rothenberg predicts Republican Scott Brown will win the open Senate seat in Massachusetts, which mean so-long health care bill.

Light posting

Not much business news expected because of the holiday (markets are closed).

Runaway in reverse

soap.jpg Funny you're not hearing about the additional jobs being added locally by moving "All My Children" from NY to L.A.

Friday morning headlines

Big payday for JP Morgan, NBC prepares Conan exit, J&J accused of kickbacks, and mixed bag for videogames.

Conan ends Jan. 22

That's what People is reporting, citing an unnamed source. It gives them more than a month to figure out a settlement.

Port improvements

cargo.jpg The next few months should look pretty good, both because retailers will have to restock and because 2009 was so terrible.

Doubts on Conan?

joan.jpg News Corp.'s Roger Ailes sounds less than overwhelmed about having O'Brien hosting a late-night show on Fox.

More Calpers gunk

One-time board president William Crist was paid 800K by a British investment firm to get business from the CA pension fund.

Drop in location shoots

The recession, coupled with aggressive poaching by other states, has trimmed overall filming in the area by 19.4 percent.

Thursday morning headlines

CA foreclosures head up, Calpers comes clean, companies provide aid to Haiti, and state IOUs still flying around.

Haiti's flawed construction

Substandard design and materials, lax regulations and shoddy construction methods played a huge role in the devastation.

China on the attack?

An L.A. law firm says it has come under cyber attack from China - the same firm that's handling a software piracy suit against the Chinese government.

Haiti and business

The irony is that the earthquake is likely to step up economic activity for years to come.

Jobless rate is too upbeat

jobless1.jpg Workers between 25 and 34, Latinos and high school graduates are having the toughest time finding a job L.A. County.

Going, going, gone

leno.jpg End of a short era: NBC is taking down a "Jay Leno Show" billboard at the Universal Studios lot.

The hassle in China

china.jpg most Western executives will tell you that doing business in China, while potentially lucrative, is a major pain in the keister.

Moving on out

move.png More folks are leaving California than coming in, but not by the numbers you might assume.

Wednesday morning headlines

Bankers tap dance in D.C., all signs point to a Conan exit, "Modern Warfare" passes $1b mark, and downtown lightshow tonight.

L.A.-Detroit in a Tesla

tesla.jpg The Tesla Roadster was driven on a 2,700-mile trek as a way of illustrating that all-electric cars can go long distances

Will feds help CA?

Some relief is likely, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office, but the governor can forget about an $8 billion bailout.

USC exodus continues

Two, possibly three, assistant coaches are joining Pete Carroll in Seattle. Meanwhile, the list of potential candidates for head coach is thinning.

Conan won't move

The late-night host just issued a statement that basically says no to the 12:05 idea. But he isn't saying he's quitting.

Cabbie returns 21K

He drove 50 miles to a Long Island address he'd found in the purse - and refused a reward.

Where are the new jobs?

jobs.jpg One of the hard realities being faced by the millions of people looking for work is that their old jobs aren't coming back.

Tuesday morning headlines

KB posts profit, L.A. County's budget nightmare, low bids for MGM, and gas prices shooting up.

Pang's death a suicide

The OC coroner's office ruled that the alleged scamster took an overdose of painkillers.

SEC targets radio show

The feds are accusing a Bev Hills firm, NewPoint Financial Services, of defrauding Iranian immigrants in a $20-million scam.

Fox: Conan must decide

Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly said today that network officials have spoken informally to O'Brien's reps, but they haven't gotten very far. "Until he makes a decision, we can't do anything," he told television writers in Pasadena. Reilly said Fox officials had been "digesting" the turn of events at NBC (sounds like they're a ways off from offering him the late-night spot). O'Brien is still said to be mulling a decision on whether to accept...

*Gundlach tell his side

The former bond manager at TCW Group says that the sex devices and DVDs he had in his offices were "vestiges of closed chapters of my life."

Carroll's loss and USC biz

football.jpg The Trojans have a loyal core of fans, but if the team does goes south, there's bound to be some fallout at the bottom line.

Monday morning headlines

CA officials offer assurances, L.A. home prices edge higher, Boeing may get more business in Long Beach, and old media still takes lead.

L.A. gets economy czar

Austin Beutner is a former partner at private-equity giant Blackstone Group. He'll oversee the Port of Los Angeles and the DWP.

*Carroll headed out?

Pete Carroll is close to a deal to leave USC and become head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, according to the LAT.

The location thing

housing.jpg Have L.A. home prices really fallen that much? Really depends on where you happen to be.

Glimmer of hope

boeing.jpg The big question economists are wrestling with is where the new business will be coming from - and how long it will last.

Gov. presents budget

"Tough times still lie ahead," says Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as he announces $8.5 billion in spending cuts.

Sex-crazed or set up?

sexshop.jpg Never mind about the unemployment rate - what inquiring minds really want to know is why and/or how superstar bond investor Jeff Gundlach would keep 12 sexual devices, 34 hardcore porn magazines and 36 hardcore DVDs and videocassettes in his TCW office in downtown L.A.? That's the cache TCW claims it found after he was unceremoniously let go in early December, and while the firm's lawsuit against Gundlach includes far more serious allegations - among...

Not to worry (too much)

hire.jpg Economists weighing in on the so-so employment report are not sounding all that concerned that the economy lost 85,000 jobs in December.

Bleak budget message

Look for the governor to propose deep cuts to public transit, healthcare and social services.

Friday morning headlines

Weather may explain weak jobs report, NBC late-night decision expected soon, and Fox pulls kids quiz show because of cheating.

Tepid jobs report

The nation's economy is still in that choppy stage in between contraction and expansion.

Money pours into CA

Not really, but at least December revenues were 5.7 percent above the state budget estimates.

HuffPost unhinged

small_huffpost.jpg Nothing like a parody to affirm one's place in the media establishment. The folks at take a few well-aimed shots.

*Jay in, Conan out?

jay.jpg TMZ is reporting that after the Winter Olympics next month, Jay will take back his old 11:30 spot.

**TCW war turns nasty

gundlach.jpg Marijuana, sexual devices, porn magazines, X-rated DVDs - are we talking about staid L.A. money management firm?

Changes at the LAT

The paper will shut down the OC printing facility, a cost-cutting effort that had been rumored for months. Plus, other stuff.

So Sorry...

We're going through a stage when it's easy to say greed is not good - few of us are in a position to be greedy even if we wanted to be.

Airlines best, worst

lax.jpg Believe it or not, there was significant improvement in lost luggage, consumer complaints and flight cancellations

Thursday morning headlines

Last-minute shoppers save Christmas, big boost from BCS game, L.A. rents down sharply, and low-wage earnings are robbed.

Tough year for music

taylor.jpg Last year U.S. sales fell almost 13 percent, though it would have been worse without Taylor Swift and Susan Boyle.

Karatz goes Broadcom

bruce.jpg The former KB Home CEO, charged with 20 counts of fraud and making false statements, is accusing prosecutors of manipulating witnesses.

Governor pushes reform

arnold.jpg He proposed changes to the state's budget, pension and tax systems, as well as a greater share of federal funding for California.

Is 'Hurt Locker' in?

hurt locker.jpg Academy honchos, desperate for better TV ratings, have been dying to see a top-grosser pick up the top prize.

More runaway delusions

movies.jpg This time it's from Pamm Fair, chairwoman of FilmLA, the nonprofit group that works with filmmakers shooting in the L.A. area.

Wednesday morning headlines

Governor pushing jobs, L.A. officials propose pension cuts, court closures hurt economy, and Disney store on Broadway.

Why buy a dumb house?

homesale.jpg A Federal Reserve official says home ownership is a terrible investment - and not just because prices have fallen so sharply.

Why scammers scam

The brain works (or doesn't work) in mysterious ways. Note how many people don't bother reading the consent form before signing.

Suing China big time

internet.jpg A small Santa Barbara company alleges that the Chinese illegally copied portions of its filtering code to block access to Internet sites.

*Ford sales up sharply

December sales rose 33 percent from a year earlier, while full year sales dropped 15 percent.

About the new look

I had been leaning on the faulty premise that business sites can look gray and boring because, well, they're just business sites.

Tuesday morning headlines

Workers are singing the blues, L.A. is hard place to find work, bankruptcies took off in 2009, and "Avatar" has global appeal.

Apple's big news

The much-awaited multimedia tablet device will be announced later this month and shipped out starting in March, says the WSJ.

Northrop leaves L.A.

The aerospace giant is looking for a location somewhere in the Washington, D.C. area. Plans to move by next year.

Look out for blips

econ.jpg Columnist Paul Krugman warns that all the bullish talk could lead the U.S. back to 1937, when the economy went south.

Monday morning headlines

Stocks taking off on first trading day, late-year flurry of car sales, Mattel teams up with WWE, and movie theaters over DVDs.

L.A. stocks take off

nyse4.jpg All of which creates an unsettling disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street, though that gap should narrow in 2010.

Fox, TWC cut deal

No word on details of the deal, specifically how much Fox was able to wrangle from the cable giant.

*No word on cable war

At last check, Time Warner Cable and Fox were still working on a new contract that would keep Channel 11 on the air.