Stocks go up and then down: The earthquake in Japan leaves investors not quite knowing where to go. Dow is down about 5 points at last check.
Oil prices fall: Two possible reasons: The so-called "Day of Rage" in Saudi Arabia is turning out to be a bust (police have locked down everything), and oil demand in Japan could soften because of the quake. Crude is trading for under $100 a barrel. (CNNMoney)
Airlines cancel flights: Good luck getting to Tokyo today - numerous flights out of LAX and other U.S. cities were canceled because of the earthquake. Airports throughout the country are either closed or operating on a limited basis. (Reuters)
Global impact: It's very early, but there are reports of factories either damaged or destroyed in the quake. Also don't forget possible transportation logjams. From the WSJ:
Japan is a major exporter of electronic goods and chips. The total global semiconductor market alone is worth around $298 billion, with Japan contributing around 24% to that total and Taiwan 30%, according to data from U.K.-based semiconductor market research firm Future Horizons.
Consumer confidence falls sharply: The March Reuters/University of Michigan index fell to 68.2 from 77.5 in February. Maybe it's higher gas prices. (Calculated Risk)
Speaking of higher gas prices: The latest Auto Club survey has an average gallon of regular in the L.A. area at $3.934, a jump of 11.3 cents from last week.
Household debt is trimmed: The U.S. debt burden in 2010 was the smallest in six years, putting more folks in a position to spend some money. From the WSJ:
The shrinking debt burden, though, brings U.S. consumers, whose purchases make up about one-sixth of global demand, closer to the point where they can make a big contribution to the world-wide recovery. "You've seen a steady improvement in household balance sheets" in the U.S., said Joseph Carson, an economist at AllianceBernstein in New York. "That should set the stage for better consumer spending in the year ahead." He expects consumer spending to grow at an inflation-adjusted rate of 2.8% in 2011, up from 1.8% last year.
99 Cents Only gets buyout offer: The Schiffer-Gold family, which operate the City of Commerce-based retailer and hold a 33 percent stake, and L.A.-based Leonard Green & Partners are offering $1.3 billion, or $19.09 per share. The bid price represents a 14 percent premium to the company's Thursday closing price. (Reuters)
L.A. County pension fund in dispute: The fund claims that Bank of New York Mellon is profiting too much from its foreign currency transactions. It's very unusual for a pension fund to take such action. From the WSJ:
At the center of the clash is the role of custody banks, which act as custodians for investment firms' securities, handling various back-office tasks for institutional investors. The Los Angeles County fund alleged in correspondence that BNY Mellon wasn't permitted to profit from undisclosed foreign-exchange transactions.
Dov Charney lawsuit is stayed: A NY judge ordered a hearing on whether plaintiff Irene Morales is bound by an agreement that requires all disputes go to arbitration. Morales alleged that Charney forced her to have sex with him, but Charney's lawyer claims that Morales "made a number of extortion-like threats to expose the company to a threatened avalanche of litigation and negative publicity." (NY Post)
"Angry Birds" developer raises $42 million: The cash will allow Finnish games developer Rovio Mobile to expand into film and TV. (THR)