Wednesday morning headlines

Stocks near the line: More so-so earnings lead to a mixed market. Dow is up 20 points.

Geithner issues another warning The Treasury Secretary urged Republicans to increase the debt ceiling or risk being responsible for the first default in U.S. history. (AP)

Gas prices change consumer behavior: More folks are taking public transit and looking for homes that are closer to work. From the NYT:

The nation's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, which reported earnings on Tuesday, said high gas prices had restrained its shoppers, and its business. Sales at stores open at least a year fell by 1.1 percent in the first quarter, as visits to stores in the United States declined. "Our customers are consolidating trips due to higher gas prices," said Bill Simon, who oversees the United States business. It was the eighth consecutive decline in same-store sales at Wal-Mart.

Republican squeezes into runoff with Janice Hahn: Activist Craig Huey appears to have beaten Secretary of State Debra Bowen for second place in yesterday's race to replace former Rep. Jane Harman. He leads Bowen by 206 votes. From Politico:

The race is the first under California's new "jungle primary" system, in which the top two finishers in an open-party primary move to a runoff unless one candidate captures the majority of votes cast. The seat was vacated by former Rep. Jane Harman, a conservative Democrat who retired earlier this year to take the lead position at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Bowen aides called media reports that Huey had edged her out premature.

Cooley won't seek another term: The L.A. County District Attorney will support his deputy, Jacquelyn Lacey, though several other prosecutors are entering the race. (LAT)

Upbeat report on trade: The Los Angeles Customs District will handle $372.8 billion in imports and exports this year, a 7.5 percent increase from 2010, says the L.A. Economic Development Corp. But job growth will lag behind those numbers. (LAT)

State payment to Calpers reduced: Thanks to several new contracts with state workers, California's contribution to the pension fund giant will drop by $170 million. Even with the savings, the state will contribute $3.51 billion. (Sacramento Bee)

B-day at L.A. City Hall: The city's $6.9-billion budget gets a working out by the City Council, beginning at 9 a.m. (CNS)

Have city officials identified "core services"?: LAT editorial supports the Fire Department's new redeployment plan, but what about the bigger picture?

Looming over this debate is another critical question: whether the city and its mayor are right to expect cuts from the Fire Department while continuing other, less essential services. It's a question Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has never answered satisfactorily, though in fairness, the council has rebuffed him when he's tried. When he proposed selling city parking lots, for instance, the council rejected that sensible plan to dispense with a service that others could handle. Still, the mayor has yet to define what represents core services -- police and fire, say -- and what the city could learn to live without. Does it need to run a convention center? A zoo? Could it forgo investment in cultural affairs or street repairs in order to focus more on public safety?

Disney considers Olympic sponsorship: The possible move is seen as a way to sweeten its bid next month for media rights to the games in 2014 and 2016. From the NY Post:

If Disney joins the likes of AT&T and Coca-Cola as major Olympic marketers, it will be taking a leaf out of General Electric's playbook. GE's NBC effectively added $200 million in sponsorship dough to its $2 billion bid for TV rights to games between 2010 and 2012, and reportedly sold some $700 million in scanners, turbines and other products as a result of the Olympic exposure.

Kaiser workers walk off the job: Nurses, social workers and other healthcare workers at 80 Southern California facilities say staffing levels are not adequate. It's a 24-hour strike. (NBC LA)

Oaktree plans public offering: The L.A.-based money management firm expects to transfer shares from a private exchange to the NYSE, the NYT reports.

The listing will provide Oaktree with a more active trading market in its stock, broaden the ownership of the firm to retail investors and, ultimately, give its founders a means to cash out their stakes. In May 2007, at the market peak, Oaktree's owners sold a minority stake in the company to institutional investors in a private placement. Those shares have since traded on a private exchange run by Goldman Sachs.

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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