Stocks meander: Sooner or later, the world's grim reality will catch up with Wall Street. But not for now - Dow is down a few points.
Oil hits $112: Latest worry centers on damage to Libyan oil fields. Not helping is a weaker dollar. From the WSJ:
The price of crude has risen more than 21% this year on the back of political unrest in the Middle East. Libya previously exported 1.3 million barrels a day prior to the conflict that began in mid-February. The prospect of a stalemate in Libya surfaced Thursday when a U.S. general testified to Congress that Libya's rebels might be unsuccessful in ousting Col. Moammar Gadhafi, despite the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's air campaign against the Libyan leader. A lack of resolution to the conflict could mean the country's oil exports would remain off the market for a long time.
Gas prices resume climb: An average gallon of regular in the L.A. area is $4.124, 7 cents higher than last week and a buck higher than a year ago, according to the Auto Club.
Pension woes were ignored: Scores of local governments in California increased benefits at a time when the state's unemployment rate was rising, housing prices were falling, and the nation's banking system was in crisis. Nice going. From the LAT:
Among the cities feeling the pain from the enhanced pensions is San Bernardino. In 2008, the city agreed to better pensions for public safety workers and the rest of the workforce. The burden on taxpayers there of paying pension costs has since grown by nearly 50%, and the bill for funding the retirement plan -- $15.6 million annually -- now accounts for one in every 10 dollars the city spends. "Other cities were doing it, and we decided it would be better to pay more than lose our employees to other places and have to retrain new ones," said Rikke Van Johnson, a San Bernardino city councilman. "To hold on to our talent and compete, we needed to do that."
Possible freeze on retiree health care contributions: L.A. budget chief Miguel Santana wants to cap the city's payments at a maximum of $1,190 a month per worker, a move that could save $525 million over five years. Anything over the cap would be paid by the retirees. (Bloomberg)
Lender layoffs: Higher mortgage rates have reduced loan demand. Wells Fargo has let go about 1,900 workers, 230 of them in California. (LAT)
Saudi Prince withdraws mega-mansion plan: Instead of an 85,000-square-foot compound, he'll settle for a smaller project - say 52,000 square feet. Residents of a posh Benedict Canyon neighborhood were up in arms about the monster property. (LAT)
Burkle bids for Warner Music: The L.A. billionaire's $3 billion-plus offer is the highest received during the three-week auction, according to CNBC. Also showing some interest is Bev Hills-based Live Nation, but only for the recorded music business.
Motion picture academy restructures: Film Independent's executive director Dawn Hudson becomes CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Longtime administrator Ric Robertson becomes COO. From The Wrap:
The move can be viewed as bringing Hudson's outside perspective to an organization long on tradition, and one that has sometimes struggled (particularly with the Oscar show) to attract a younger audience. By promoting Robertson to COO rather than keeping him in his current position, the Academy is clearly making a push to retain a man who, as one Academy member said, "knows how to deal with the board, and knows where all the bodies are buried."
Dr. Phil unloads estate: The gated, Mediterranean-style Bev Hills mansion had been reduced recently to $13.9 million from $16.5 million. No word on the selling price. (WSJ)