Stocks eke out gains: Forward momentum continues - in spite of the bad news. Dow is up 40 points.
Sluggish economy: First-quarter GDP grew at an annual rate of 1.8 percent, a big drop from 3.1 percent in the previous three months. At the beginning of 2011, economists were expecting around 4 percent growth. From the NYT:
The biggest concern going forward are the higher commodity prices, which reduce the amount of pocket money that households and businesses have available to spend on other purchases. "Consumers are spending more, but it's getting soaked up in higher gas prices and higher food prices," the chief economist at RDQ Economics, John Ryding, said. "That's not leaving nearly as much left over for discretionary spending."
Getting tougher to spend: Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke says there is more pressure today than a year ago among the chain's core customers. From the WSJ:
Customers continue to do heavy shopping at the beginning of the month when paychecks come in, but buying tapers off after that, showing they are already struggling. Consumers are now further pressured by rising fuel costs. Gasoline prices, which are running over $4 a gallon in many parts of the country, "are really having an impact on the consumer," Mr. Duke said. Consumers are also dealing with inflation in key areas like fresh foods, while at the same time enjoying lower prices in more discretionary areas such as consumer electronics.
Stunning stat: More than half of those surveyed in a new Gallup poll say that the economy is either in a recession or depression. Hint: You can't be in a recession or depression if the economy is growing, which it is. (Business Insider)
Jobless claims take off: Weekly filings rose 25,000, to 429,000, the second rise in three weeks. The more reliable four-week moving average stood at 408,500. This is another indication that the recovery is slowing down. (AP)
Californians want it all: A large majority support the general idea of cutting the deficit through spending cuts and tax extensions, according to a PPIC poll, but they oppose the specifics that Gov. Jerry Brown has in mind: extending personal income tax and state sales tax. From the SF Chronicle:
The poll found deep concern among Californians about the state of public schools - and the potential impact of further cuts. Most said they would support increasing taxes for wealthy state residents to stave off further cuts to education. State residents "really want to protect K-12 education and they're really reluctant about raising taxes," said Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the Public Policy Institute of California. He said the poll shows how tough it will be to sell fickle voters on taxes even to stave off cuts to popular state programs.
Democrats threaten to target GOP districts: With the Republicans steadfastly refusing to compromise on a budget deal, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg tossed out that far-fetched possibility. "You don't want to pay for government, well then, you get less of it," he told reporters. From the Sacramento Bee:
Whether the strategy is a serious option or a scare tactic intended to push Republicans to support Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal is yet to be seen. But some Republicans weren't taking it seriously. "Quite frankly, it sounds like an April Fool's joke," said former Assemblyman Roger Niello, a Fair Oaks Republican who served as vice chair of the Assembly Budget Committee. "I have no idea how they would do this even if they're serious about it."
Bankruptcy pace slowing down: Individual and business filings in L.A. County rose 6.7 percent in March compared with a year earlier. That's actually an improvement over a string of months that had double-digit increases. OC filings were up 10.1 percent. (OC Register)
Baseball officials deny McCourt comments: No decision concerning the proposed long-term TV deal with Fox will be made until the investigation into the Dodger finances is completed, a MLB official said. McCourt said the Fox deal has already been rejected. (LAT)
Investment bank moves into MGM tower: Houlihan Lokey will be leasing three floors of the Century City high-rise in a $60-million deal. After emerging from bankruptcy protection, MGM made plans to relocate to Bev Hills. (LAT)