Monday morning headlines

Stocks edge higher (again): The rally goes on, as do concerns about whether it's for real. From LAT columnist Tom Petruno:

Unless you owned nothing but long-term government bonds it would have been virtually impossible to lose money in the markets over the last year. Yet when a Bloomberg News poll last weekend asked 1,002 Americans nationwide how the value of their investments had fared compared with a year earlier, just 31% said their portfolio was better off. An additional 22% said the value of their investments was the same, while 46% described their holdings as either "a lot worse" or "a little worse" than a year earlier.

Jobs czar to DWP?: Mayor Villaraigosa is considering Austin Beutner for the position of interim general manager of the utility. He would continue in his role as the mayor's key economic advisor. Current interim executive, S. David Freeman, is scheduled to step down within weeks. (LAT)

Budget chief enters treatment program: City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana is temporarily stepping down from his post after being arrested on DUI last week. Santana's assistant will take over in his absence. (Daily News)

Transit pitch gains traction: Villaraigosa's efforts at fast-tracking the expansion of L.A.'s rail system is winning over the Obama administration and members of Congress. From the LAT:

Villaraigosa said that any money Washington advanced to L.A. would be repaid from the $40 billion projected to be generated over the next 30 years from a half-cent sales tax approved by county voters last year -- a selling point that has resonated with lawmakers. "A lot of legislators are responding to the fact that we're not just asking for a handout from D.C.," Villaraigosa blogged after a recent trip to Washington.

Safety net is failing: More than one in four Californians live in households that lack regular access to sufficient food, according to UCLA's Center for Health Policy Research. Yet almost 3 million Californians who are eligible for food stamps aren't getting them. From KPCC/California Watch:

Experts says a labyrinth of bureaucratic rules, regulations and requirements - created by state officials to check welfare fraud - have deterred huge numbers of eligible Californians from applying for food stamps. Boosting the state's low rate of participation in the food stamp program would pump as much as $3.7 billion per year into California's economy, advocates say. It would also ease pressure on the charities and local agencies that provided free food to an estimated four million Californians last year via a network of foods banks.

Mortgage spikes no big deal: This year's scheduled resets in monthly payments for those who took out starter loans a couple of years ago are being blunted by loan modification programs and the fact that many of those borrowers have already defaulted. (WSJ)

American Apparel sinks: Its shares are down again this morning after the L.A.-based retailer reported a 23 percent drop in fourth-quarter profit. Sales in stores open at least a year would likely slide 10 percent for the first quarter. (MarketWatch)

iPad at Best Buy: They'll be available at most of the chain's stores beginning this Saturday morning, but inventories are believed to be very limited. You can also buy the gizmo at Apple stores. (Digital Daily)

Not so fast on 3-D: "How to Train a Dragon" did very well in its opening weekend, but not as well as "Avatar" and "Alice in Wonderland." Keep in mind that the theater chains have been raising prices on 3-D fare. From the WSJ:

Hollywood is watching how moviegoers respond to higher prices as a slate of five major 3-D releases hits theaters over the next few months. On the heels of "Dragon," audiences will be offered the action-adventure film "Clash of the Titans" next weekend from Warner Bros. The price increases--running as much as 26%--fall heaviest on the biggest-screen 3-D tickets. At least one theater, an AMC in New York City, was pushing the $20 threshold by charging $19.50 for an adult ticket in the Imax format.

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?
Recent stories:
Letter from Down Under: Welcome to the Homogenocene
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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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