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.
May 2010

Ranking cities by college degree

CollegeDegreeDensity.png SF had 7,031 bachelor and graduate degrees per square mile, more than another city in the nation.

Traffic is monstrous

Ah, those Friday afternoon pre-holiday weekend jams.

More on mayor's Lakers tickets

Turns out that Villaraigosa has received free courtside seats from none other than Anschutz Entertainment Group.

Stocks tumble

So much for a calm, pre-holiday trading session. Dow was down 122 points....

*Bad news on Top Kill

A technician involved in the massive plugging effort tells the NYT that pumping operations have been suspended.

What happens to jilted Downey?

The city is looking to move on after the electric car company Tesla bailed out of a pending deal.

Friday morning headlines

Gas prices tumble in time for holiday, more Californians oppose oil drilling, celebs had suspicions about Starr, and Mercury on the way out.

Big day for stocks

The market stories will have all kinds of cockamamie explanations -- stuff like how China says it isn't planning to sell its European bond holdings.

Hollywood's all-guys club

How bad is the shortage of movies about women characters and situations that go beyond relationships and sex? Pretty bad....

Traveling at 3,500 mph

Check out this very cool video of the unmanned X-51 WaveRider that was detached from a B-52 off the coast near Point Magu.

In-N-Out to open in Texas

innout.jpg The much-beloved burger chain is looking to open a few locations in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.

L.A. spending up sharply

spending.jpg The average L.A. household spent almost $3,600 in March, compared with a little over $3,000 for the same period a year earlier,

Thursday morning headlines

Top Kill looking good, Tiffany profit more than doubles, widespread fraud within L.A. County government, and small business gets smacked by high health costs.

Stocks shoot up

Whether it's a sustainable rebound or just a quickie buying opportunity remains to be seen.

*Why we love being home owners

Thanks to our old trusty mortgage interest rate deduction, Californians saved an average of almost $19,000 from their tax bills in 2008.

Economics of immigration

As a rule, newly arrived immigrants do not take jobs away from native-born Americans,

Stop blaming Obama for oil spill

Good back and forth between David Brooks and Gail Collins of the NYT on the oil spill and the rage that it has stoked.

Here's the real thing

The "Top Kill" procedure got going a few hours ago and involves pumping thousands of pounds of fluids into a five-story stack of pipes.

Coming to a theater near you...

top-kill-movie.jpg This one is making the rounds. Well, what do you expect when BP comes up with such a silly name for its oil-plugging operation?

Dow is under 10,000

Tack off another 69 points, to 9974....

Janice Min to lead THR

min.jpg Min had been the high-profile editor-in-chief of Us Weekly. She'll be in charge of various platforms.

Supergraphics take fall

An appellate panel reverses a federal judge's ruling that struck down the city of L.A.'s billboard ban.

*Scheme to sell Disney earnings info

The SEC has charged an administrative assistant to a Disney executive with trying to profit from unreleased earnings results.

Wednesday morning headlines

Oil rig was in trouble before blast, Apple faces music inquiry, ad spending increases, and LAX overhaul is complete.

What oil spill really looks like

That's how Philippe Cousteau Jr. describes what's underwater in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sacramento chutzpah

When it comes to budget gimmickry, the Assembly Democrats deserve some kind of prize.

Guess who pays for DWP nonsense?

The council is picking up a $600,000 tab for a consulting firm's extra work on the proposed utility surcharge.

The Ken Moelis empire

What started out in 2007 as an L.A.-based boutique investment bank is now up to 325 employees in offices all over the world.

Market recovers

One wacky day, with the Dow falling around 250 points in the first few minutes of trading and finally closing down about 22 points.

L.A. labor group looking for trouble

Doesn't the Federation have more constructive things to do, what with L.A.'s social safety net in tatters?

At least there's no inflation

The Consumer Price Index, which measures inflation, gained a whole 0.2 percent in the L.A. area between March and April, which is basically nothing.

Are home prices heading down?

Yale Professor Robert Shiller tells Bloomberg Television that it's "a time of extraordinary uncertainty for home prices."

Tuesday morning headlines

L.A. home prices fall, airlines add summer fees, LAX area enterprise zone created, and MGM debt holders are ruling the roost.

Disney ends Miramax talks

The talks collapsed because of the complex structure of the acquisition, which was to have been financed largely by L.A. billionaire Ron Burkle.

Stocks plunge at opening

Dow is down about 275 points in the first minutes of trading. The overseas financial markets took a licking....

Broad museum takes shape

The billionaire philanthropist had six architecture teams coming up with designs for the proposed downtown site next to Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Gas prices edge closer to $3

memorial day.jpg The L.A. numbers are still higher than the national average of $2.79 a gallon, but they have fallen almost a dime in the past two weeks.

Stocks tumble again

Looks like the computers kicked in once again during the final hour of trading. Dow finished at 10.066, down 126 on the day.

Another plea for pension reform

The governor is pushing for pension reform, and his proposal seems reasonable. But don't get your hopes up.

Tim Geitner shooting hoops

Time out from his high-level talks in China....

Monday morning headlines

L.A.'s wealthiest, more Californians exhaust jobless benefits, "Shrek" underwhelms, and Karatz puts up home.

Ruckus at Council meeting

Some minor scuffles broke out after the City Council sent back to committee a proposed moratorium on rent hikes.

*Is Weinstein bid for Miramax dead?

The NYT and LAT say it's over, the WSJ says it's "on the rocks," and The Wrap says it's still alive.

Can L.A. renege on pension promises?

It would appear that it can - if the city files for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. The courts say so.

Confused about financial reform?

If you're still trying to figure out what the legislation is all about, here is a good primer.

No change in L.A. jobless

It's a decent but unspectacular month, with L.A. County adding just 400 jobs in April.

Rick Caruso 'leaning' towards mayoral run

He tells Bloomberg that he'll have to make a decision sometime next year (Villaraigosa is termed out in 2013).

What is it with the stock market?

stocks5.png I've been trying to find a coherent argument on how the Greek debt disaster will spread across the Atlantic. I'm still looking.

For rent: Hollywood in Malibu

It's an eight-acre oceanfront estate known as La Villa Contenta. Price: $250,000 a month.

Friday morning headlines

Financial regulation likely to pass, one in three out-of-work Californians don't have jobless benefits, Toyota's deal with Tesla, and more DWP shenanigans.

*A few more CA job gains

April payrolls fell by 14,200, but the state's unemployment rate was unchanged at 12.6 percent.

Rent or buy in L.A.?

Well, it depends on a bunch of factors - employment status, credit standing, size of nest egg - but there is a measurement that can help.

The $20 movie ticket

shrek-forever-after.jpg A Manhattan movie theater will be charging 20 smackers for an adult ticket to IMAX showings of "Shrek Forever After."

Tesla jilts Downey

The electric car company will team up with Toyota to build the cars at the shuttered NUMMI plant in Fremont.

AZ boycott not the answer

State Assembly Speaker John PĂ©rez isn't buying into the need - so far - to be boycotting Arizona.

Stocks collapse at end

After being down around 250 points for most of the session, the Dow took a big tumble in the last 30 minutes or so.

Financial regulation clears hurdle

The Senate voted 60-40 to end debate on the reform package, which means that a final vote could happen as early as tonight.

Should Ontario get its airport?

City officials believe their airport has been getting short shrift from LAWA, and they would like the place back.

With 3 hours to go...

stocks4.gif Stock prices are way down, Treasury prices are way up, and the only reason gold is down is because investors are using it to raise cash.

Thursday morning headlines

Deal on extended jobless benefits, oil arrives in Louisiana, developer asks city for loan, and Calpers retreats.

Stocks take heavy hit

Dow is down 280 or so points after an hour of trading....

Shutting off L.A. power?

Vast majority of Americans participating in an online poll say Arizona has the right to pull the plug on L.A.

Beef prices squeeze chains

The big burger chains aren't planning to raise prices because they don't want to lose customers.

The best-selling car is...

ford.jpg Well, it's actually a truck. Ford sold 30,000 of its F-150 pick-ups in April. The Camry and Corolla also did well.

DWP to fire workers

They're the two utility crew workers that Channel 2 found drinking beer and patronizing a strip club while on the job.

American Apparel nears default

americanapparel.jpg The L.A.-based clothing manufacturer reported an operating loss of $17.6 million as it tries to amend its $80-million loan agreement.

The Groupon phenomenon

groupon.jpg Forwarding emails each morning with the latest bargain has become a kind of social networking sport.

CBS announces fall lineup

Five new series are scheduled, with "Survivor" moving to Wednesday and a block of sitcoms is slated for Thursday.

Wednesday morning headlines

CA tax hike recommended, Calpers needs more state money, Villaraigosa takes another trip to D.C., and Oprah hires Eli Broad's money manager.

AZ official counters L.A. boycott

If the city wants to cut off ties, why not go all the way by giving up all the power that L.A. gets from the state?

MGM creditors near decision

The current plan is to replace some of the movie company's top executives.

New video on oil leak

BP now says that the leak will have only a "very modest" environmental impact.

ABC's fall season

The network will be focusing on five new dramas. One of them is about a family that gains superpowers.

Calpers may see lower returns

The new projections put the number at anywhere from 7.03 percent to 7.7 percent, which could be a big deal for a $205-billion fund.

Home sales mish-mash

Don't expect much clarity from the April numbers - there are just too many crosscurrents.

Tuesday morning headlines

Council approves budget cuts, mixed signals on consumer spending, summer vacation plans picking up, and Estee Lauder buys Smashbox.

Gas prices dip; oil plunges

A barrel of crude fell to its lowest level since December - $70.08 on the NY Mercantile Exchange.

UC system cuts costs

The financial and administrative overhaul could cut expenses across the 10 campuses by $500 million.

L.A. city workers clean up

More than one out of 10 makes over $100,000 a year, according to La Opinion. That's 7,100 City Hall employees, or 14 percent of the workforce.

Dick Wolf isn't giving up

The executive producer of "Law & Order" is seeking "other offers" for the show that NBC canceled after 20 years.

Promising the moon - again

Does anyone believe that if Meg Whitman gets elected she will magically scale back public pension and improve the schools?

Monday morning headlines

More euro jitters, GM posts profit, L.A. Council to vote on layoff plan, and networks announce fall schedules.

He still likes handling money

That would be Alan "Ace" Greenberg, the former chairman of Bear Stearns, who doesn't do email or cell phones.

*State budget would cut welfare

The governor is proposing the elimination of the state's welfare program and drastic cuts in in-home health care for the elderly and disabled.

Self-indulgent tea partiers

It's all about cutting my taxes and keeping my Medicare. And nothing is my fault.

NBC cancels 'Law & Order'

At a time of intense hand-wringing among L.A. politicians about the loss of TV and film production, it's ironic that this show is getting the ax.

True Religion prez cashes out

Just days before leaving the apparel company, Michael Buckley sold 150,000 shares of stock worth $4.3 million.

Another bad day for stocks

There is no single culprit behind today's losses - just a combination of nagging concerns.

Deal set for Bel-Air mansion

belair.jpg Looks like L.A. developer Mohamed Hadid,has a buyer for his monster 48,000-square-foot mansion in Bel-Air

Friday morning headlines

Government's blind eye on drilling, Schwarzenegger releases bad news budget, local seafood prices start rising, and videogames take dive.

"Law & Order" cancelled?

That is what's being reported this afternoon, But NBC has not made any announcement.

You mean Latinos save?

Here's a good take on why L.A. ranks at the bottom of the top 20 metro areas when it comes to personal debt.

Bill to ban West Coast drilling

California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein are joining with senators from Oregon and Washington.

Scalping at Cannes

A ticket to Oliver Stone's "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" is supposedly going on the black market for $10,000.

What is this thing called net worth?

A number of Web sites allow people to post their finances and compare them with everybody else.

Frequent flier sweepstakes

southwest.jpg Not all airlines are alike when it comes to redeeming your points for a free ticket.

Voyage to the bottom of the sea

Some very cool video of the effort by BP to cap that oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

Thursday morning headlines

Wall Street probes widen, CA foreclosures fall, port activity improves, and Arizona boycott complications.

Mixed views on AZ immigration

What all this suggests is a sharply divided electorate that will make it next to impossible to resolve the immigration debate this year

We are what we eat

Infographic Food and Drink by City_hl_lg.jpg Angelenos spend an average $8,310 a year on food and drink - $3,657 for dining out and $4,653 for groceries.

Having it all costs money

deficit-us-government.jpg April's budget deficit was $82.7 billion, the largest imbalance for that month on record.

Still clueless about debt

No, not the lawmakers - the people who elected them. And it's happening at all levels of government.

Will strike kill the C-17?

The 1,700 union workers at the Boeing plant in Long Beach are playing with fire.

CA budget showdown awaits

Brace yourself for some monster cuts on Friday when the governor releases his May budget revision.

Hey gang, let's pass a resolution!

Tongue-in-cheek from Not the L.A. Times: Acting decisively, L.A. city officials today adopted a strongly worded resolution that wishes the city's budget deficit would "go away really soon, like in the next three months or so." Alleged Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa drafted the statement after rejecting calls for Los Angeles to declare bankruptcy or shrink its bloated pension system....

Wednesday morning headlines

Morgan Stanley investigated, City Council consider AZ boycott, Disneyland business is soft, and Ralphs accused of overcharging.

L.A. has new layoff number

This one comes from the City Council's top policy analyst, who says that 1,000 jobs would have to be cut on top of the 761 targeted by the mayor.

Cost of AZ immigration law

phoenix.jpg The city of Phoenix estimates that $90 million worth of convention and hotel business will be lost over the next five years.

$1 million home in Echo Park

eastsider.jpg Not your typical listing, considering that the median price in that part of town is $367,000.

High tax nonsense

Americans paid their lowest level of taxes last year since 1950, the result of the stimulus package and a series of credit and exemptions.

Workaholics take note

People who added three or more hours to a seven-hour day had a greater risk of heart attack than those with no overtime work.

Non-profits in danger

More than 6,000 of them in L.A. County have not filed the required paperwork to maintain their tax-exempt status.

Another 'perfect storm'

Jon Stewart's take on last Thursday's "flash crash."

Tuesday morning headlines

Long Beach Boeing workers go on strike, L.A. must raise pay to lay off workers, finger-pointing over drilling disaster, and NBC to sell KWHY.

Immigration switch

Immig-thumb-440x810.jpg There's not much doubt about how the patterns have shifted over the past 40 years.

Dow gains 404

stocks2.gif Guess we can all come out of the shelters....

The case for walking away

"60 Minutes" interviews several folks in Arizona who have convinced themselves that it's all right not to honor their commitments.

States pulling tax breaks

Giveaways aren't all that they were cracked up to be, especially in tough times.

Demographics change for Hispanics

Hispanics remain a significant portion of the Inland Empire population, and it's creating a "cultural generation gap."

Monday morning headlines

Oxy investors balk at CEO pay, L.A. to host big Microsoft convention, Wellpoint CEO talks back to Obama, and higher-end home sales picking up.

Big rally for stocks

Dow is up about 400 points in the first 20 minutes of trading. European markets were sharply higher today after a nearly $1-trillion rescue plan was finalized over the weekend....

Fat finger excuse is lame

simpsons-fat-finger1.png The business about how a trader mistakenly entered an order for $16 billion instead of $16 million has been pretty much ruled out,

*City pooh-poohs Riordan

Budget chief Miguel Santana says that L.A.'s financial mess is improving, and that it would be foolish to file for bankruptcy.

*How's this for a crazy day?

stocks1.gif Still more than two hours to go in the session. Anyone for Paxil? *Just a few minutes before the closing bell, the Dow was down 164 points....

Why tax money didn't come in

The state controller's office is still trying to figure out how April tax receipts were $3.6-billion below expectations.

Oil drilling (non)regulation

offshore-oil.jpg Every hear of the Minerals Management Service? It's the tiny government agency that is supposed to oversee offshore drilling, but really doesn't.

Live from New York....

No it's not the crazy stock market - it's the Goldman Sachs annual meeting.

Friday morning headlines

Markets remain shaky, fat-finger trade theory not holding up, Council looks at Villaraigosa/Riordan rumble, and Boeing workers in Long Beach talk strike.

About those job gains...

Government reports an increase of 290,000 jobs in April, but the news isn't all good.

Market opens lower

So far traders are brushing aside the strong jobs report for April, with the Dow down 30 points in early trading.

*Villaraigosa vs. Riordan

The current mayor isn't exactly thrilled with comments by the former mayor about the city's deteriorating finances.

How Citi trader rocked Wall Street

Here's what can happen when your fingers are too fat. Earlier: So what happened?...

*So what happened?

pg.gif What was building into a bad day turned outrageous, with a 550-point tumble in the space of five or 10 minutes.

*Stocks recovering

stocks.gif Dow is down about 270 points with 10 minutes to go. *CNBC is reporting that a trading error at a major firm is being blamed for the market plunge. Story developing... A possible culprit for the drop was a trader error in which someone entered a "b" for billion instead of an "m" for million in a trade. Multiple sources confirmed the report to CNBC and

Dow plummets 1,000 points

You're read right. The index just sunk like a rock over or so over new concerns about Greece. It's been starting to recover, but is still down 500 points on the day....

Who bought the Picasso?

picasso.jpg Even in these bad economic times, there are plenty of folks in Russia, China and the Middle East who have huge amounts of discretionary cash.

L.A. office rents are a bargain

offices.jpg At least when compared with, say, London's West End where office space last year went for $183 a square foot.

Thursday morning headlines

Retailers stumble in April, Hispanics hit hard during recession, summer travel will be tough, and C-17 workers in Long Beach reject contract.

Rent moratorium is considered

A City Council committee voted 3-1 to take the namby-pamby approach by supporting a four-month prohibition on rent increases.

Still an oil addict

gas.jpg Red states are the heaviest users (no comment), green states the lightest, and purple in the middle.

Max Palevsky dies

The Bev Hills philanthropist was one of early high-tech financiers, selling Scientific Data Systems to Xerox in 1969 for $1 billion.

Sad stat about jobs

One of every five men 25 to 54 isn't working - and WH adviser Larry Summers says that it five years it'll be one in six.

Blame it on those ferners

palin.png Sarah Palin's latest gem. Here's to 'merican oil.

Why we should be happy/sad

Beaconomics.php.png The rest of the year will be solid, but look out for 2011 and 2012 when the federal stimulus packages begin to phase out.

Riordan's budget warning

L.A.'s former mayor anticipates that the city will likely declare bankruptcy between now and 2014.

Wednesday morning headlines

Better odds on finding work, movies cost more, DWP finally pays up, and Cal Worthington gets loan to stay in Long Beach.

Picasso gets record price

picasso.jpg The celebrated "Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur (Nude, Green Leaves and Bust)," sold in NY tonight for $106.5 million

Rupert's up/down quarter

The folks at News Corp. are no doubt pleased about a big boost in operating profits at the film and TV unit. But what about net?

Dow drops 225 points

Debt worries in Europe are being cited, but there have been warnings for weeks that stocks were due for a fall.

CBS, CNN talk partnership

This latest round of discussions has been going on for a couple of months, according to NY magazine.

Hotels get into fee game

hotels.jpg Some chains are starting to charge for Internet access, storing bags and cutting short scheduled stays.

Tuesday morning headlines

Stocks take another tumble, plunge in CA tax revenue, governor drops oil drilling, and L.A. to start shutting pot shops.

Another strong bond sale

This time, it's a $2-billion offering from the California Department of Water Resources.

Transit lessons for the mayor

expoline.jpg Transit projects always face delays. The more complicated the project, the more lengthy the delay. Just see what's happening with the Expo Line. As posted by Curbed LA, Phase 1 of the light rail project from downtown to Culver City was supposed to be up and running this summer. But design and legal holdups have pushed back the opening by at least 58 weeks (you can be sure it will be a lot more)....

Blankfein makes his case

segment_10989_460x345.jpg The chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs acquitted himself quite nicely on Charlie Rose.

ABC's of European debt

debt.jpg And you thought California was in trouble.

Do prisons help economies?

More jobs are a plus, of course, but prison employees usually live some distance from the facility.

Big day for stocks

Today Wall Street chooses to believe that the economic glass is half full instead of half empty.

United-Continental deal for LAX

There's just a little overlap on routes (Honolulu and Houston stand out), and United is by far the bigger local player.

Think Americans cheat on taxes?

greece2.jpg Try spending some time in Greece, where tax evasion is practically a national pastime.

Monday morning headlines

United-Continental deal announced, iPad sales top 1 million, Hollywood Video shutting down, and council lapses on DWP called "staggering."

The trouble with ranking cities

Calling Detroit a more livable city than London seems a bit nutty, but that's the point: Rankings can be very misleading.

Buffett defends Goldman

He tells his Berkshire Hathaway shareholders that the embattled Wall Street bank was not involved in improper activity.