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.
December 2010

Dow finishes 2010 up 11 percent

Equities fared a lot better in 2010 than the economy, which raised the obvious question as to whether the rally was for real.

Why is the stock market open today?

Most businesses and government offices are closed so that folks get a day off for the New Year's holiday. Why not the exchanges?

MySpace considering big layoffs

No numbers yet, but All Things Digital's Liz Gannes says it could be as much as 50 percent of the 1,100 employees.

Summing up the economy in a few nifty bars

chartglance.gif Overall U.S. growth is down a tad, but employment has really taken it on the chin. And look at the growth in China, India and Brazil.

Borders delays payments to publishers

The bookstore chain says "there can be no assurance" that its refinancing efforts will be successful.

Had enough of Oprah's new network?

The thing doesn't even premiere until Saturday and already I'm overdosing.

*Glendale looks bad in pushing Caruso deal

The developer's efforts to purchase a hotel next to his Americana at Grand complex is not coming off well.

Why get jammed into coach when you can have this?

Well, a few thousand bucks, for starters. Former MySpace CEO Jason Hirschhorn offers some up-close moments.

Be wary about forecasts

Expectations for 2011 seem to be getting better all the time, but the predictions could turn out to be wrong.

Why was NY's snow cleanup such a disaster?

NY Post says it was a job action by Sanitation Department employees who deliberately delayed snow-removal as a protest against city budget cuts. A City Councilman from Queens says that several of the workers came forward to fess up. The snitches "didn't want to be identified because they were afraid of retaliation," [City Councilman Dan Halloran said]. "They were told [by supervisors] to take off routes [and] not do the plowing of some of the...

Local bank pays back TARP money

East West Bancorp has handed over $306.5 million in preferred stock that it received from the government.

More signs of an improving recovery

Banks are finally lending money to businesses at levels that amount to something - specifically, expansion and new jobs.

Racing to become the next iPad

At least 69 tablets have been introduced, up from 38 in November, but Apple dominates.

Brown preparing budget that will make all sides grumble

The governor-elect is expected to make deep cuts in state services and knock out tax breaks and subsidies for business,

MGM moving to Bev Hills

mgm.jpg The movie company will leave the MGM Tower in Century City and lease a 144,000-square-foot Beverly Drive office building.

Business Update on KPCC

This morning's chat with KPCC's Steve Julian looks at the clues to next year's economy.

Amped up in Beijing

What will eventually become the world's largest economy goes through its hyper-charged routine.

Ignore those year-end stories

Those look back/look forward pieces can be a colossal waste of time - though not always.

What to make of falling consumer confidence?

This morning's report was certainly a surprise, considering the solid holiday shopping season.

LAX still seeing moderate delays

In the old days, airlines seemed to have an easier time bringing in empty planes to accommodate the passengers on canceled flights.

L.A. home prices edge lower

Amid all the encouraging forecasts for 2011, housing remains a major thorn.

Another jump in gas prices

An average gallon of regular in the L.A. area is now 30 cents higher than during the beginning of October.

Holiday sales really were good

The 50-day period between Nov. 5 and Dec. 24 saw a 5.5 percent increase in sales compared with a year earlier.

Excessive delays at LAX

The FlightStats delay index is at 4.75 (that's on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the worst).

Hotel owner turns down Caruso offer

Ray Patel says the Golden Key is not for sale - at least not for the $6-million being offered by the developer.

Stat of the season

Amazon sold a record-breaking 158 items per second on Cyber Monday, Nov. 29. That's more than 13.7 million items ordered worldwide.

*JFK passengers not taking blizzard in stride

The tweets from stranded passengers at the NY airports are sounding grim.

Cheer up, it's only going to get worse

As usual, Charlie Brown is depressed about Christmas, but the shrinks will tell you that the real depression takes hold on Monday, January 17.

It's Merry Christmas over Happy Holidays by a wide margin

Actually, this Happy Holidays business is barely a blip on the screen.

How small Alabama town deals with pension shortfall

Cash-strapped cities could be faced with a nightmarish choice: Do they continue to pay retirees or do they continue to provide basic services?

Miramax moving to Santa Monica?

The Water Gardens on Olympic Boulevard could be the new location for the movie company.

L.A. firm making its mark on takeovers

So far this year, Leonard Green & Partners has been involved in 15 buyouts.

Oil prices top $91 a barrel

Much of the increase is due to encouraging reports about the economy, but if crude keeps going up it may put the brakes on the economy.

Thursday morning headlines

Consumer sentiment keeps rising, today is a big shopping day, FCC chairman ready to sign off on Comcast-NBC deal, and L.A. investment firm to buy fabric chain.

Was tax judge sleeping on the job?

That what former LAT horse-racing reporter Bill Christine claims in appealing a lower-court decision concerning a $4,000 tax bill.

L.A. cops seize counterfeit goods

It's part of the city's crackdown on pirated movies, music and knock-off apparel.

No, you're not the only one stuck in a slow-moving line

Actually, the odds are usually against you, which is why banks and department stores have switched to the single queue.

Is 75 becoming the new 65? 55?

AARP found that 1.3 million people were working, or at least looking for work, in 2009, compared with just under half a million 20 years earlier.

Good news and bad news on California jobs

More jobs were added between October and November than in any state, but more jobs were lost over the last 12 months than in any state.

More doubts raised about downtown stadium plan

Is billionaire Phil Anschutz actually part of the proposal being advanced by his sports empire, AEG, to build a stadium and convention center next to Staples?

Rock & Republic taken over by owner of Lee, Wrangler jeans

rockrep.JPG The Culver City-based jeans maker, which had been stuck in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, had been in talks with VF Corp. for several months.

Wednesday morning headlines

Growth revised higher, Apple and Calpers in Scuffle, Texas firms buys Union Station, and Activision hits $1-billion mark on "Black Ops."

All set to shop on Christmas Eve

As you might guess, it'll be more men than women, and more younger than older.

Business Update on KPCC

This morning's chat looks at why L.A. County's unemployment rate went up in November - even though 16,500 jobs were added to the rolls.

Lawyers can't help struggling homeowners

It's the unintended consequence of a California law that restricts the way attorneys working on loan modifications can be paid.

*California's population increases by 3.4 million

As of April 1, 2010: 37,253,956, up from 33,871,648 in April 2000. As you might guess, California remains the nation's largest state.

Tuesday morning headlines

Toyota to pay record fine, strong shopping season, pricey holiday driving, and Census data will be announced.
The $1-billion contract provides an upgraded satellite communications system for the Mexican government that includes three satellites.

Primer on storm insurance

Standard insurance covers damage from rain, but doesn't cover damage from rising water.
It's Dennis Zine, whose lady friend, Veronica Becerra, tells the Weekly that "It's a dating situation. It's not like we're living together."

As you're packed onto planes this holiday season...

Just remember that the nation's largest carriers reported a 10.5 percent profit margin in the third quarter.

Torrance Kmart to close after 40 years

The 90,000-square-foot store on Hawthorne Boulevard lost its sweetheart lease, and the chain apparently wasn't interested in paying market prices.

Lap-band-related mishaps get airing

Two deaths have been linked to a Bev Hills clinic that performs the procedures.

'60 Minutes' on the coming day of reckoning

That's the day when cities and states are forced to default on debt, ask Washington for help or cut basic services like police, fire, and CHP.

Monday morning headlines

Ernst & Young faces fraud charges, Silicon Valley shows strength, Web ads exceed print ads, and NFL tops all programming.

Does downtown really need another office building?

korean.jpg Certainly not right now, based on high vacancies and the fact that companies require less space to do business.

Up-close moment with Blake Edwards

He had it all, but it cost a lot: Countless hours on the couch. Drug addiction and multiple times in rehab. Ulcers. My first marriage. My peace of mind.

Amazon's wacky work rules

Well, maybe not so wacky considering that the online retailer is hiring lots of temporary workers for the holidays.

*Mixed messages on L.A. jobs

November's unemployment rate jumped, but so did the number of new payroll jobs.

Former LAT publisher cleans up - but can he keep it?

David Hiller left the paper in July 2008 with quite a handful of parting gifts - nearly $15.4 million in total.

B of A goofs again on mortgage paperwork

The bank notified a homeowner that it didn't have all the documents needed for a loan modification. The letter was addressed to a couple who sold the apartment in 1998.

Friday morning headlines

CA jobless rate unchanged but L.A.'s jumps, state's uninsured keeps climbing, travel to pick up during holidays, and city will use electric cars from China.

Tax deal clears hurdle in House

A procedural vote got through this afternoon, 214-to-201, and final passage could come later tonight.

Is income inequality all that it's cracked up to be?

Tyler Cowen argues that many of our middle-class, middle-income lives aren't that much different than those of the very wealthiest.

OC's KOCE changes name as part of PBS programming

All this is the result of L.A. station KCET breaking off its relationship with PBS in a fee dispute.

L.A. saves $17.3 million from furloughs

Almost 11,000 city workers have been required to take the mandatory days off, with the LAPD showing the biggest savings.

LAX preps for holiday traffic

Busiest days are likely to be this Saturday and Sunday, Friday the 24th and Sunday, Jan. 2.

Thursday morning headlines

Anschutz not yet committed to stadium, Planning Commission considers Korean Air towers, new MySpace-Google ad deal, and Kathleen Brown leaves California.

Port of L.A. shows gains

Inbound cargo for November was up 11.7 percent from a year earlier, while outbound was up 14.2 percent.

Where do the super-rich live? Where do you think?

Ultrawealth_E.jpg California has more people in the ultra-wealthy class ($30 million in investible assets) than any other state in the nation.

Jack Kyser memorial service set

It's been set for Jan. 12 at the Millenium Biltmore.

Ruminating on Mark Madoff's suicide

NYT columnist wonders whether retribution has been inflicted upon the old man?

Tax deal passes Senate

By a wide margin. The first vote in the House could happen tonight.

More strain for Socal housing market

November home sales fell to the second-lowest level in 18 years, though the picture in L.A. and Orange counties was better than in the Inland areas.

The ever-shrinking office

empty-office.jpg The recession plays a role, of course, but the changes are more structural.

Wednesday morning headlines

Tame inflation in Socal, Irvine Co. nears deal on big Chicago property, City Council to talk deficit - and layoffs - and more kudos for Facebook.

Grim talk on budget picture

Jerry Brown said at today's town hall on education that, "We've been living in fantasy land."

Milken: Too much focus on big homes, fancy cars

He says middle class America has been told that they can buy a larger house than they need.

Business Update on KPCC

This morning's chat with KPCC's Steve Julian looks at why bringing an NFL team back to L.A. won't do much for the economy.

Why Best Buy took such a tumble

The basic explanation for the dismal third-quarter results is that too many other retailers are offering the same merchandise at a somewhat cheaper price.

Energy consultant offered DWP job

Ron Nichols, managing director of the energy practice at Navigant Consulting in Seattle, was making the rounds at City Hall this morning.

*Brown's education summit getting started

Here's the live feed from UCLA. *Update: State Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, expects Brown to propose a dire budget in January and then push voters to approve a tax increase to preserve services that would otherwise be cut. (Capitol Alert)...

Another big jump in port traffic

After a dismal 2009, this is shaping up to be a turnaround year at both ports.

Early odds for Best Picture

"The King's English," which led the way this morning in Golden Globes nominations, is the favorite to take the Best Picture Oscar.

Most overused words in resumes

Best to avoid innovative, dynamic, motivated, among others.

Waldorf shows how some guests are more important than others

Linda and Michael Morgan learned that the hard way when their reservations for the Thanksgiving holiday were dumped in favor of a contingent of Saudi princes.

Tuesday morning headlines

Jump in retail sales, CA regents overhaul pension and health care plans, big push for electric cars, and Golden Globe nominations are out.

Leiweke called 'a bad guy'

Developer John Semcken says the plan by AEG head Tim Leiweke to build a downtown stadium adjacent to Staples Center was a "pipe dream.

Sex harassment suit at Four Seasons in Westlake Village

Massage therapist says he was demoted after complaining about favorable treatment given to a masseuse who was involved with the general manager.

Tax cut plan passes key hurdle

The vote to end debate on the package means it's virtually assured that the measure will make it through the Senate on Tuesday. But that still leaves the House.

L.A. gas price increase slowing down

After last week's big run-up, an average gallon in the L.A. area rose only a little over a penny, to $3.256.

How we respond to time

Fascinating stuff from Prof. Philip Zimbardo on how individual perspectives of time influences who we are as a person.

Is ruling on health care bill the end of reform?

Way too soon to tell whether Federal Judge Henry Hudson (a George W. Bush appointee) will gum up the works.

*Ruth Madoff blames Bernie for son's suicide

The Greek tragedy continues - she thinks this is the end of the family.

Tribute to Jack Kyser

Jon Regardie of the Downtown News has a nice remembrance of economist Jack Kyser, who died last week of 76.

Monday morning headlines

Brighter prospects expected for 2011, fewer homeowners under water, L.A. may order lots of electric buses, and retail chain not paying bills.

*Madoff son found dead

Mark Madoff was said to be increasingly distraught as the anniversary of his father's arrest approached.

New face emerges in Madoff scheme

sonja.jpg It's Austrian banker Sonja Koh, who is alleged to have played a central role in financing the massive Ponzi scheme.

Gores brothers go after movie studio

The two L.A. billionaires are in talks with Universal to purchase Focus Features.

How to avoid being a Ponzi victim?

On the two-year anniversary of the Madoff scandal, it's worth laying out the ways to avoid getting snookered.

Foreclosures up close

Here's both a cool and sobering look at the nation's housing woes, courtesy of Google Maps.

State should be all right on cash through June. But then...

Receipts for November were 19.4 percent above earlier estimates. In particular, corporate and personal income taxes were way higher than expected.

Oxy aims its sights at shareholders

The L.A.-based energy company is raising its dividend by 21 percent, another example of how it courts investors.

Friday morning headlines

Consumer confidence improving, gas prices back up to 2008 levels, Mercury cuts auto insurance rates, and MSG to buy Forum.

Wilshire bus lanes approved

They'll be running during rush hour between MacArthur Park and Centinela Avenue, with a mile-long gap in the Westwood area.

Merger creates largest Korean-American bank

Nara Bancorp will buy Center Financial Corp. in a $270 million, all-stock deal that joins two Koreatown rivals.

L.A. near the top in women-owned businesses

The Census Bureau's latest report shows that 30 percent of all businesses in L.A. County are owned by women, or a total of 316,000.

Jobless benefit extension does nothing for 99ers

In California, there are at least 300,000 people who will get no relief from the proposed 13-month job extension.

Companies hoarding cash

With the recovery slowly taking shape, when do companies start taking out their checkbooks?

Thursday morning headlines

Brown considers special election, more billionaires give away fortunes, state loses big with online shopping, and City Council restricts fast food restaurants in South L.A.

Candy Spelling closes on Century City super-condo

Purchase price turns out to be $35 million, not the $47 million that's been bandied around.

*SpaceX rocket completes big test

Hawthorne-based Space Explorations Technologies is the first commercial company to send a rocket and capsule into space and bring the spacecraft safely back to Earth.

Brown says budget gap is now $28.1 billion

The governor-elect is chairing a budget forum this morning in Sacramento.

Angelenos least ready for retirement

On your marks, L.A. stereotypers: A study of 30 metro areas places Los Angeles dead last when it comes to retirement readiness.

Jump in California food stamp usage

Almost 3.5 million people in the state were collecting food stamps in September, a 17.7 percent increase from a year earlier

Is the Fed printing money or what?

Not according to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who tells "60 Minutes" that buying government bonds is not the same thing.

Wednesday morning headlines

Tax deal could generate jobs, Americans don't have retirement savings, jobless checks may be delayed, and Brown holds budget summit.

Jamie McCourt readies bid for Dodgers

She's reportedly trying to gather a group of local investors to buy out her ex-husband's stake in the team, but her ex-husband shows no intention to sell.

Business Update on KPCC

This morning's chat on KPCC looks at how the California economy, eighth largest in the world if it were its own country, remains potent.
The California PUC, which at one time skewed its decisions toward consumers, is much more industry focused these days.

Directors Guild reaches tentative deal with producers

The new three-year contract is likely to resemble the pact that actors worked out with the studios and networks.

California's double-digit unemployment problem

October unemployment rates fell in about two-thirds of the major metro areas from a year earlier, but most California cities remain stuck at over 10 percent.

Economists generally positive about tax deal

Extending the cuts for another two years is considered a relatively painless kind of stimulus. Same with extending jobless benefits and cutting the payroll tax. Even NYT columnist Paul Krugman says the deal is a little better than he had expected just a few days ago. Well, sort of. Here's a sampler of reaction from Real Time Economics: -The proposed temporary tax cuts and spending increases will provide a substantial boost to growth in 2011....

Tuesday morning headlines

Mixed bag in UCLA forecast, DWP bills could be increasing for the next 20 years, big jump in gas prices, and Schwarzenegger's last stand.

Tax cut deal is reached

Obama agrees to a two-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, while Congressional Republicans agree to a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits.

*Economist Jack Kyser dies

Jack was the dean of the Southern California economists, quoted around the world on everything from the entertainment business to the ports to aerospace.

How locals view holiday shopping

Deloitte's annual survey of Southern California shoppers shows that cautious spending - much of it at discount stores - remains the prevailing sentiment.

Stewart Resnick buys winery

Fiji Water, the bottled water company that's part of the L.A. billionaire's empire, is acquiring Justin Vineyards & Winery in Paso Robles.

Why the Republicans want tax cuts for the rich

taxcuts.gif But hey, it's all right because all the rich folk are going to use their tax savings to create jobs!

Sick-day police are after you

Companies are hiring private detectives to go after employees who call in sick and then head off to the golf course.

The year that the rich started getting a lot richer

It was in 1982 that the top 1 percent of income earners began seeing their share of the nation's income take off after decades of relative stability.

Monday morning headlines

Borders investor interested in Barnes & Noble buyout, state lawmakers to talk budget in special session, and Michael Jackson's glove goes for $330,000.

Oprah's humble little promo

She's starting to plug her Oprah Winfrey Network, which will debut on Jan. 1 and be based in L.A.

Don't hold your breath for close of Comcast-NBC deal

The $13.75 billion merger agreement, which was supposed to expire today, has been extended to March 3.

Dow ekes out 20-point gain

So much for the lousy jobs report - after being down slightly for much of the session, stocks rallied late in the day.

What to make of the employment report

nytjobs.jpg An overall disappointment in November, but perhaps not as bad as the headline numbers would indicate.

Cockpit drama after Qantas superjumbo blows an engine

Turns out that the engine failure of an A380 last month created problems on the aircraft far worse than first indicated.

Friday morning headlines

L.A. paying out more in pensions, higher health coverage in California, most HOWS markets are closing, and airport commission president resigns.

Trying to make sense of jobs report

Lots of luck. The national unemployment rate rose in November to 9.8 percent from 9.6 percent, but what really surprised everybody was a paltry gain of 39,000 jobs.

So what if L.A. didn't get the World Cup?

A few sports honchos around town are disappointed, but like other sports extravaganzas it doesn't offer much of an economic boost.

Another good day for stocks

Today was another day of encouraging signals about the economy, with stronger-than-expected retail and home sales.

What to do about the long-term unemployed?

Unless some bright idea comes out of Congress (I know, I know), these folks are likely to become a permanent underclass,

When condos don't sell downtown, just rent 'em

Almost 1,800 apartment units will be added to the downtown portfolio in 2010, or more than half of all units opened in L.A. County.

California still eighth-largest economy in the world

This is not a state that's in any threat of collapsing. Anyone who tells you otherwise is clueless.

MGM bankruptcy plan approved

A federal judge has signed off on the reorganization plan less than a month after the movie company filed for Chapter 11.

Expo Line mess offers cautionary tale for subway lovers

The thing is only $260 million over budget and two years behind schedule - and that's just for the first phase to Culver City. So what happened? The Weekly's Gene Maddaus writes that an unorthodox approach was taken during the project's design and bidding phase, and it wound up backfiring. At the center of this is Rick Thorpe, who runs the Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority (and who up to now had an excellent reputation...

GQ raves about Umami Burger

Food writer Alan Richman isn't wowed by L.A.'s burger scene, with the notable exception.

Thursday morning headlines

Shoppers returning to the stores, higher gas prices are coming, Diller steps down as CEO, and voters question initiative process.

Californians more upbeat about economy

Chapman University's consumer confidence index is at its highest point since August 2007, before the recession began.

Google says it's fixed grifter problem

This was the basis of a NYT profile of an online retailer whose verbal abuse of customers created such commotion that he actually moved up the Google rankings

Dow gains 249 points

This was a great day for anyone who believes that the recovery is really taking shape.

Financial crisis even more desperate than first thought

Turns out that during the worst of the crisis the Federal Reserve had to help out not just the big banks, but GE, McDonald's, Verizon, Caterpillar and other corporations.

Auto sales pick up in November

It's a noticeable improvement over 2008 and 2009 - and one more sign that the economy is picking up.

Julia Roberts was paid $1.5 million for this commercial

Life just ain't fair - here's the superstar appearing in a 45-second ad for the Italian coffee Lavazza. And she doesn't even have any lines.

Wednesday morning headlines

Companies added jobs last month, Socal economy slowly improving, Magic wants NFL in L.A., and local ski resorts clean up.