So-so market: Stocks are treading water in early trading - mixed earnings news and a somewhat weak housing report are the bigger stories so far.
L.A. home prices edge higher: The Case-Shiller Index shows a 1.7 percent increase from April to May and a 9.7 percent increase from May 2009 to May 2010. Most of the metro areas surveyed had month-to-month increases. From the press release:
"While May's report on its own looks somewhat positive, a broader look at home price levels over the past year still do not indicate that the housing market is in any form of sustained recovery," says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor's. "Since reaching its recent trough in April 2009, the housing market has really only stabilized at this lower level.
Consumer confidence drops: The July decline was larger than expected. Says Lynn Franco of the Conference Board:
Concerns about business conditions and the labor market are casting a dark cloud over consumers that is not likely to lift until the job market improves. Given consumers' heightened level of anxiety, along with their pessimistic income outlook and lackluster job growth, retailers are very likely to face a challenging back-to-school season."
Small biz owners still unhappy: New survey finds 58 percent of them rate the economy as poor, up from 51 percent in June, while only 7 percent rate the economy as excellent or good, down from 12 percent in June. (press release)
Long-term jobless number edges higher: Among California's unemployed, 43.2 percent have been without work at least six months, up from 41.8 percent in June. Nationwide, 45.5 percent were classified as long-term unemployed. (OC Register)
Dubious achievement: Occidental Petroleum CEO Ray Irani winds up third on the WSJ's list of highest paid executives during the past decade, receiving $857 million. Countrywide Financial's Angelo Mozilo is sixth, at $528 million. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison topped the list, with $1.84 billion.
The disparity between those CEOs' fortunes and those of their shareholders is "pretty depressing," and "suggests there's a fair amount of pay without performance," said Jesse Fried, a law professor at Harvard University and co-author of a 2004 book, "Pay Without Performance: The Unfulfilled Promise of Executive Compensation." But Steven Kaplan, a professor at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, said that in general, "the guys who got the big payoffs deliver."
Speaking of Occidental...: The L.A.-based energy company posted a smaller second-quarter profit than had been expected. (Bloomberg)
Tribune bankruptcy gets more complicated: The court-appointed examiner found that the company's 2007 leveraged buyout was "marred" by the "dishonesty and lack of candor" of its then-senior management. Tribune, owner of the LAT, was essentially insolvent from the start. From the Chicago Tribune:
What wasn't immediately clear, however, was how much ammunition the Klee report would give to a large group of dissident senior creditors led by Los Angeles distressed bond investor Oaktree Capital Management. The Oaktree group, representing creditors with $2.3 billion in claims, is seeking to unwind the settlement and propose its own reorganization plan that would leave out the junior creditors.
Univision settles claims: Under terms of a deal with the FCC, the Spanish- language media company will pay $1 million. Univision had been accused of secretly accepting payment from a record label for playing songs on the air. (Bloomberg)
Wind project breaks ground: When finished, the Alta Wind Energy Center in the Mojave Desert foothills could produce three times as much energy as the country's largest existing wind farm - and generate electricity for 600,000 homes. (LAT)
New questions about Miramax deal: Disney wants a $40 million nonrefundable payment towards the purchase of the movie company by Wednesday. No money and the Mouse House could reopen bidding. A group led by Ron Tutor had agreed to buy Miramax. (NYT)
Will Relativity Media go public?: Ryan Kavanaugh might consider an IPO for his film production company, Bloomberg reports. Relativity just bought the marketing and distribution operations of the Starz Overture film studio.
Gas prices level: Virtually no change from last week - an average gallon in the L.A. area is $3.148, according to the government survey.