Stocks eking out gains: The Dow has been bouncing around on the upside in the first 90 minutes of trading. At last check, it's up 50 points.
Worsening jobs picture: At 12 percent, the state has the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation (Nevada remains highest). See post below.
B of A layoffs: The bank plans to cut 3,500 jobs, with the eventual number possibly reaching 10,000. The positions are spread across the company; no word on the local impact. (DealBook)
Gas prices keep dropping: It's mostly about cheaper oil - an average gallon of regular in the L.A. area is $3.705, according to the Auto Club, down a nickel from last week.
Grocery workers vote: They're considering a strike authorization that could lead to a walkout in a few days. Union officials say they won't recommend the latest contract offer by the three chains - Ralphs, Vons, and Albertsons. From the Press-Enterprise:
"The talks did not go as well as we had needed or expected," said Greg Conger, president of Local 324, which represents Orange County workers. "Their position did not change enough to change our recommendation." Union leaders say their members would be asked to pay a much larger share of medical costs under the chains' proposals, which call for them to pay between $9 and $23 per week.
No sale of Barnes & Noble: But John Malone's Liberty Media will invest $204 million in the company (17 percent of the outstanding shares). At one point Liberty was interested in buying all of Barnes & Noble, but the asking price was getting too high. From Bloomberg:
Liberty's investment allows Barnes & Noble to spend more on its Nook e-readers to keep up with competitors and gives Malone exposure to a changing industry, Bill Kavaler, a New York-based analyst at Oscar Gruss & Son Inc., said in an interview. "John Malone likes to buy low-cost calls on interesting potential and ideas and Barnes & Noble is interesting as the only national book chain that's standing," Kavaler said. "For $200 million dollars, he's got a shot at seeing what happens."Why would H-P give up PC business?: Because Apple is just too tough, says Fortune's Philip Elmer-DeWitt in assessing the company's possible spinoff of the PC business.
The company that swallowed Compaq and overtook Dell (DELL) to become the world's largest PC vendor saw its margins shrink and its market share contract and decided it didn't want to be in truck-making business anymore. And, sadly, when it tried to buy its way into the post-PC era by acquiring Palm, it couldn't make that work either. The Pre's slice of the smartphone market is too microscopic to show up in the pie charts, and the TouchPad has had the stink of death about it from the start.
State accuses lawyers of fraud: They are alleged to have deceived distressed homeowners into paying up to $10,000 to be added as plaintiffs in lawsuits against banks. At least 2,500 homeowners were involved in California alone. From the LAT:
[California Attorney General Kamala Harris] is seeking "tens of millions of dollars" in damages and fines on behalf of the homeowners who signed up to participate in the suits, then typically had only cursory conversations about their situations with participants in the alleged scheme who weren't even lawyers. "Consumers are led to believe that joining these lawsuits will stay foreclosures, reduce their loan balances, entitle them to monetary benefits and potentially get them their homes free and clear of their mortgage," said the attorney general's suit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
New CEO for CPK: Texas Roadhouse chief executive G.J. Hart will succeed California Pizza Kitchen co-founders Rick Rosenfield and Larry Flax, who recently agreed to sell the chain to a private equity firm for $470 million. (Nation's Restaurant News)
Bus bench kerfuffle: The City Council is scheduled to vote today on whether to give Martin Outdoor Media the rights to maintain bus benches in the city. Martin would replace Norman Bench Advertising. Both companies have contributed to the campaigns of city officials, and the sparks are flying. (LAT)