Mixed market: Decent earnings news, a lower-than-expected drop in jobless claims, and Obama's speech all factor into the stew. Dow is down about 70 points in early trading.
More Toyota recalls: The Japanese automaker has now extended them to China and Europe. This comes after the decision to suspend sales and production of eight models to fix faulty pedals that could stick. (AP)
About those pedals: They're made by an Indiana supplier, CTS Corp., which claims that its product has been involved in "fewer than a dozen" incidents of sticking accelerators. CTS is starting to ship a newly designed pedal. (Detroit Free Press)
Ford in the black: The automaker posts a profit for 2009 of $2.7 billion, which was only $17.5 billion better than in 2008. The Toyota mess is obviously going to improve its outlook. (NYT)
Bernanke vote today?: Majority Leader Harry Reid has filed a motion to end debate on the nomination of Ben Bernanke for another term as Fed chairman. To pass, the motion needs 60 votes - and it appears as if they have the votes. (MarketNews.com)
Choo-choo bucks: California gets 2.25 billion in federal stimulus funds to develop a high-speed rail line from Anaheim to SF. The proposed route will eventually cost about $42 billion. From the LAT:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has complained that California sends more money to Washington than it gets in return. His press secretary, Aaron McLear, said Wednesday that the "one-time stimulus is completely separate from the ongoing funding formulas that are robbing California taxpayers and forcing us to subsidize programs in other states."
Miramax dies: The NY and L.A. offices of the art house movie studio owned by Disney are shutting down today. No word on the six remaining movies in the can and awaiting distribution. (The Wrap)
Juicy girls gone: Gela Nash-Taylor and Pamela Skaist-Levy have left Juicy Couture, which is now owned by Liz Claiborne. NY Post reports buzz that the L.A.-based pair are unhappy with the direction Juicy has taken. Skaist-Levy said she and Nash-Taylor are feeling the itch to do other things.
The departure comes at an awkward time for Juicy Couture. Despite recent efforts by Juicy to shore up interest among retailers, upscale department stores like Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale's have been paring back the floor space allotted to Juicy amid plunging sales and steep markdowns.
iPad reaction: As you might guess, everyone has an opinion, even though no one has actually tested the product. One of the tech blogs called it "a consumption device, not a creation device," which sounds about right. Other reaction:
David Pogue, NYT: Until I saw the demo, I wondered why you'd want an iPad instead of a laptop. After all, the price is about the same. And once you add a carrying case to the iPad -- wouldn't you worry about that glass screen bouncing around in your briefcase or backpack naked? -- it's about the same bulk and weight as a laptop. Now, though, it looks like Apple really has created something new. Criticisms of "Like a laptop" and "a big iPod Touch" don't really do justice to the possibilities.
Don Norman, professor of design at Northwestern University: "I think it has redefined the computer," he said. "The laptop is now obsolete. The multitouch interface now extends to word processing and spreadsheets."
John Carney, Business Insider: The iPad will not rearrange my life the way the iPhone did. The easiest way to explain this is to run through how the iPhone changed my life. It made a ton of stuff I used to carry around completely unnecessary. It replaced the following devices: my old cell phone; my blackberry; my Flip video recorder; my digital camera; and my iPod. Here's a list of what the iPad replaces: That's right: nothing.
Tribune bonuses approved: Bankruptcy judge signs off on a $45.6 million incentive program for top executives and managers. Two other incentive programs have not been ruled on. From the NYT:
In court papers, the bankruptcy trustee, Roberta A. DeAngelis, disputed Tribune's claim that the incentive programs were bona fide awards "based on real performance targets that are intended to motivate superior performance." She said Tribune officials failed to "back up their characterization" that cash flow targets were real and had failed to provide records of actual versus projected performance. But in a 10-minute ruling from the bench, Judge Carey said he found the proposed bonuses were justified because "there is a reasonable relationship between the plan and its objective to restore profitability and let the company move forward."