Stocks are sinking: The Dow was down about 130 points in early trading, more than erasing yesterday's big gain. One factor cited is China's plans to have banks increase their reserve levels (meaning slower growth), but there's no shortage of reasons to sell.
Piece of Buffett: The great one's Berkshire Hathaway joins the S&P 500, meaning that anyone with index funds tied to the S&P gets a teeny weeny bit of the conglomerate. Buying Berkshire itself has been out of the price range of most investors, though a new class B stock will be more affordable. (WSJ)
Profits for health insurers: The five largest companies reported combined earnings of $12.2 billion last year, up 56 percent from 2008, according to a liberal activist group. From the LAT:
Based on company financial reports for 2009 filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the report said, insurers WellPoint Inc., UnitedHealth Group, Cigna Corp., Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. covered 2.7 million fewer people than they did the year before. The report released Thursday also said some of the five insurers cut the proportion of premiums they spent on their customers' medical care, committing relatively more to salaries, administrative expenses and profit.
Not just California: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie declared a "fiscal emergency," which allows him to reserve or freeze spending. Next year's deficit is the largest per-capita budget shortfall of any U.S. state. (Reuters)
Best place to find CA work?: Try San Jose, which had 2.15 unemployed people for every online job advertised. L.A. was at 10.10 and Riverside 11.22, according to Juju.com. Not sure how this fits with recent reports about the struggling Silicon Valley economy, but there it is. (OC Register)
Videogames struggle: Another bad month for the industry, with a 13 percent decline in revenues for January compared with a year earlier. The coming months could be better because many top games are coming out. (SF Chronicle)
Activision layoffs: Pink slips for 200 staffers at the Santa Monica-based videogame developer. Company is also shutting down its development studio Luxoflux. Activision reported a big fourth-quarter loss. (LAT)
Disney pushes window: Lots of chatter about the decision to start selling DVDs of "Alice in Wonderland" only three months after the March 5 release date instead of the usual four months. From the LAT:
Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger has championed a change in movie release patterns to address the changing habits of consumers, who want to see movies on their big-screen TVs or portable devices without waiting months for the DVD. The decline of DVD sales, exacerbated by the recession, prompted Iger to renew the call to speed up a film's release to the home. Until now, Iger has not made the move -- despite raising the idea five years ago -- because of resistance from theater owners.LAUSD conflict: Superintendent Ramon Cortines earned more than $150,000 last year for serving on the board of a publishing company that does work with the district. From the LAT:
Cortines has disclosed his relationship with the New York-based company, and officials say he has avoided any decisions on Scholastic contracts. Cortines' role, however, has generated criticism among some former senior officials and current employees. They said the corporate tie creates an appearance of impropriety. "My objection is the perception it creates and the door it opens for others to do the same thing," said former school board member Marlene Canter, who sits on the city ethics commission and who said she admires Cortines.
Gas under a buck: An average gallon of regular in the L.A. area is down two cents from a week ago, to $2.975. But there are signs of an upturn. (Auto Club)