Wednesday morning headlines

Stocks search for direction: The Dow is up a few points, but the other indexes are down.

U.S. manufacturing makes rebound: The number of jobs grew by 1.2 percent last year, the first increase since 1997. Expect more growth in 2011. From the WSJ:

Among others, major auto makers--both domestic and transplants--are hiring. Ford Motor Co. announced last week it planned to add 7,000 workers over the next two years. The economists' projections for this year--calling for a gain of about 2.5%, or 330,000 manufacturing jobs--won't come close to making up for the nearly six million lost since 1997. But manufacturing should be at least a modest contributor to total U.S. employment in the next couple of years, these economists say.

Chase overcharges 4,000 military families: The bank also foreclosed on the homes of 14 military families. It's mailing $2 million in refunds and either reversing the foreclosures or reimbursing the homeowners. (Bloomberg)

More cities try grabbing redevelopment dollars: It's not just L.A. - Culver City, Long Beach and Pasadena are looking at the transfer of billions of dollars from their redevelopment agencies to city control. The attempted end-run comes amid Gov. Brown's proposal to eliminate the agencies. From the LAT:

Los Angeles was one of the first to move. Its redevelopment commissioners voted Friday to hand control of nearly $1 billion, for more than 275 projects, to the city. The projects range from building affordable housing in rundown neighborhoods to putting $35 million toward the planned Eli Broad art museum downtown and contributing nearly half a million dollars to a bicycle facility. The vote must still be approved by the City Council -- and there were signs that Los Angeles officials might be pulling back from the brink, perhaps to seek a deal with the Legislature, which has not yet taken up Brown's budget proposal.

Mozilo speaks of high standards: The former CEO of Countrywide Financial testified as a defendant in a wrongful-firing lawsuit and sounded, well, defensive. From the LAT:

The former chief executive said the goal from the beginning was "changing the lives of the American people" by making home loans to customers who could not have gotten them from other lenders. "It was founded by two people driven ... to make a difference," Mozilo said, referring to himself and co-founder David Loeb, who left Countrywide in 2000 and died in 2003.

Freedom-MediaNews merger?: Investment firm Alden Capital, which has positions in both companies, is looking to roll at least some of the newspaper holdings into a single company. Alden also has stakes in the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News. From the WSJ:

MediaNews on Tuesday announced a series of management changes under which current chairman and chief executive William Dean Singleton will relinquish his CEO role and become executive chairman of the Denver-based company. In a news release, MediaNews said the moves, which also include the hiring of three new directors, will "position the company to identify, pursue and execute on strategic consolidation opportunities." As part of Tuesday's changes, MediaNews said executives from Alden and its parent company, Smith Management LLC, will join the company's board.

Council committee looks at downtown stadium: They'll consider a pair of motions dealing with operation of the Convention Center and the process for stadium talks. Councilwoman Jan Perry is calling for a working group that would be the single point of contact for any negotiations. (Blogdowntown)

Bratz trial gets going: Opening statements seemed to cover familiar ground, with Mattel claiming that the doll was created by the El Segundo toy maker and Bratz's MGA Entertainment claiming that it came up with the idea. (Bloomberg)

Fewer passengers at Bob Hope Airport: The 2.6 percent drop for the first 11 months of 2010 was a lower rate of decline than a year earlier. (818 Now)

Bad year for venture capital: A total of 157 funds raised $12.3 billion, down 24.6 percent from 2009 and the worst showing since 2003. (OC Register)

eHarmony CEO steps down: Greg Waldorf had been chief executive of the dating service for five years (and was the founding investor). President and COO Greg Steiner takes over. (SocalTech)

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?
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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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