LA Biz Observed archive

Mark Lacter covered business, the economy and more here from 2006 until his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
The entire LA Biz Observed archive — more than 10,000 blog posts by Mark — remains online and available.
September 2011

California pulls out of foreclosure talks

Homeowner advocates are pleased, but the move will likely set back any resolution.

Countrywide's pockets of fraud, whistleblowing, and retribution

Employees would raise concerns about questionable activity, only to be ignored or in some cases let go.

Stocks sink - glad this quarter is over

Boy, what a lousy three months.

*California near the bottom in registration, voting

This explains a lot. Census data via Capitol Alert: Just 50.1 percent of California's 27.4 million voting-age residents were registered to vote for last year's election, higher only than Hawaii's 48.3 percent, the state-by-state breakdown of political participation found. The national rate was 59.8 percent. The state's voter turnout, 39.2 percent of voting-age residents, was one of the lower rates, but not the lowest. Ten other states had lower voting levels with Texas, at 31.4...

Free tickets for Jeff Jarvis breakfast

The media critic and author is the next headliner in the Live Talks Business Forum series. He'll be in conversation with Lisa Napoli. Event is next Thursday, Oct. 6 at the City Club. Breakfast is at 7:45 and the forum runs from 8:15 to 9:15. To sign up for free tickets, click here....

Cash making a comeback?

Might make people think a little harder about whether the purchase is necessary.

Kobe's Italian play is in jeopardy

Now there's chatter about scheduling conflicts of some kind.

Reports: Chris Christie reconsiders presidential run

Oh, come on - are you that surprised?

Friday morning headlines

Consumer mood improves (slightly), outrage over debit card fee, big payday for fired H-P boss, and Kobe's Italian holiday.

Schwarzenegger tried to do the right thing - really

The only problem was that Californians simply said no.

Calpers warns about lower-than-targeted investment return

This could present some problems because the pension fund is obligated to pay off retirees.

Zagat snubs OC foodies - again

Editors of the 2012 Southern California edition didn't update its ratings for Orange County restaurants.

Confused about which Kindle to buy? Check this out

kindle.jpg Seems plenty clear to me.

Thursday morning headlines

Jobless claims tumble, double-dipping on state pensions, bad news for Madoff victims, and interns sue "Black Swan" producers.

Mortgage fraud taking off

Some more fallout from the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression.

Pushing for elimination of L.A. business tax

The focus should be on overhauling the regulatory maze, which is what drives business owners craaaaazy.

Cliffs Notes version of the debt crisis in Greece

In case you're still a little confused, here's a quick summary.

Tablet market is splitting into Lexuses and Camrys

What's interesting is how the device, priced at $199, doesn't try to be all things to all users.

Glatt-Kosher Subways a tough sell

No ham and cheese sandwiches, of course, but there's more to it.

Wednesday morning headlines

Amazon introduces $199 tablet, Best Buy hiring fewer temp workers, Fox Sports sues Dodgers, and SUVs posing less danger to cars.

L.A.'s tinkering with pension plans could present problems

City's move to freeze healthcare benefits given to thousands of cops and firefighters once they retire might not be legal.

Culver Studios back up for sale

The sellers hope to attract a really rich investor with money to burn.

Business Update on KPCC: How to send McCourt on his way

We kick around the possibilities during this week's business chat.

Cost of health insurance keeps going up

The average annual premium for family coverage through an employer rose 9 percent from a year earlier.

*Brown plans to sign downtown stadium bill

The governor has scheduled a bill-signing ceremony with representatives of Anschutz Entertainment Group.

Tuesday morning headlines

Some hope on European debt, mortgage guarantees lowered, Californians taking hit on finances, and LAX traffic is up again.

L.A. gas prices slide ever so slowly

The latest explanation involves Libyan oil.

Greece, schmeece, Dow jumps 272 points

Rumbles of a euro-zone bailout might have energized traders.

The one reality show that might end up killing them all

Still trying to gather myself after watching the taut, 10-minute spine tingler.

Don't get carried away by Solyndra mess

Much of what wrong was beyond the company's control.

Monday morning headlines

Investors worry about Europe, Netflix cuts streaming deal with DreamWorks Animation, and grocery workers ratify contract.

*Major League Baseball makes push for Dodger sale

The league says that Frank McCourt's plan to hold onto the team is "dead on arrival."

Stocks stagger back to small gain

Pretty volatile day, but at least there were some buyers around.

Book on Obama's economic team getting ripped

And not just by the White House.

Solyndra story just looking worse and worse

All administrations have scandals. It's just that this one has no safety net.
Remarkably cavalier treatment of the thousands of people who just a few days ago were willing to walk off their jobs.

Friday morning headlines

Consumers are borrowing more, White House missed warning signs on Solyndra, grocery workers to vote on contract, and voters still love Prop 13.
broker.jpg Notice how they're always guys with their sleeves rolled up and ties askew. Until now.

Report: NBA will postpone training camp, exhibition games

Labor talks between the league and the players ended without much progress.

L.A. needs a few new billionaires to put on the Forbes list

Same old names make up the magazine's Southern California contingent.

Stocks nosedive on not much news - just fear

The Dow has fallen around 7 percent since the Fed offered a downbeat assessment of where the economy is heading.

Meg Whitman set to get H-P job

Company is supposed to make the announcement after the market closes.

Free tickets for former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm

She has a new book out and will be in conversation with Jim Flanagan.

Thursday morning headlines

FedEx cuts forecast, Kaiser nurses are still out, Schwarzenegger to write memoir, and L.A. commutes not that bad.

Stocks open sharply lower

Follows up on a bad day in the overseas markets.

Where does L.A. unemployment top the nation? Everywhere

Here's a quick summation of why the local economy is trailing the U.S. as a whole.

*Here's some motivation to work for Obama's reelection

The New Yorker's Amy Davidson suggests that we better get used to it. Is this effective? The most powerful part of the ad may be the economic statistics, including the new poverty numbers from last week, which don't need portentous music to sound grim. The "President Zero" line was introduced by the Republican National Committee, a few weeks ago. There's another Republican debate Thursday night--another opportunity for the candidates to engage in vaccine denialism...

Stocks slump badly after Fed announcement

Investors don't seem very optimistic that the economy will be helped out by the central bank's actions.

Amazon workers' nightmare shows what happens when jobs are scarce

How would you feel about your son or daughter working in a warehouse that had a temperature of 102 degrees?

Fed does its 'Operation Twist'

The hope is that rates on mortgages and other consumer and business loans will be reduced.

Business Update on KPCC: Why no supermarket strike?

Union officials didn't want their members to walk. The chains didn't want to lose more customers.

Zagat names top L.A. restaurants

A lot of the usual suspects for the annual guide for L.A., now in its 25th year.

Kaiser nurses on strike

Their beefs included higher health care costs and inadequate staffing levels.

Is Meg Whitman headed to Hewlett-Packard?

The former eBay CEO and last year's Republican candidate for governor is being considered.

Wednesday morning headlines

Fed to announce new moves, Paramount plans upgrade, "Avatar" coming to Disney theme parks, and Brown says it's not like the old days.
Looks good at 72 - and he seems ready to make the moves on a young interviewer.

What's the bleakest number in UCLA's economic forecast?

The projection of a 9.5 percent jobless rate within the next few months stands out.
What, no more problems left to deal with in L.A.?

Barry Minkow heads back to prison

The one-time ZZZZ Best wunderkind begins serving a five-year sentence for securities fraud.

Obama's reelection odds keep slipping

obama.jpg Prez is given a less than 50-50 chance of being reelected on Intrade,

Tuesday morning headlines

California's bleak outlook, Brown a bit more popular, small dip in gas prices, and Qantas strike disrupts L.A. service.

L.A. not an especially big town for college football

fanbase2.jpg The local market is vast and diverse - and football comprises a relatively small part of the pie.

Charlie Sheen nearing $25 million settlement with Warner Bros.

Hollywood is very good at rewarding bad behavior.

Why did Netflix split itself into two?

Basically self-protection.

Compromise in Washington is absolutely, totally, completely dead

Both sides will now be taking their respective cases to the 2012 campaign.

*Tentative deal reached in grocery talks

Just announced by the United Food and Commercial Workers.

New and improved (and larger) ketchup packets

ketchup.jpg The old single-serve packets are too small, too messy, and too difficult to open.
We got a little taste of it Sunday afternoon.

Monday morning headlines

Obama wants the rich to pay more taxes, Netflix splits off businesses, court sets aside Costco class action, and McCourt wants to spruce up image.

*Grocery talks still ongoing after deadline passes

Some progress appears to have been made, but still no deal.

*Ralphs will close all its stores if there's a strike

Now that's an interesting tactic - and quite different than during the strike/lockout eight years ago.

*WGA elects Chris Keyser as new president

The co-creator of the Fox television series "Party of Five" beat out Patric Verrone.
Alleged activity involved the union's pension and health plans and resulted in losses of $5 million to $10 million.

New book on Obama's economic team is not flattering

Here's another indication of a poorly managed White House.

L.A.'s troubled jobs picture

So much for unemployment peaking out earlier this year.

*Split decision in Gundlach/TCW case

Gundlach breached his fiduciary duty no money is awarded to TCW.

Friday morning headlines

Grocery workers prep for strike, lots more foreclosures for L.A., Regents defer on tuition increases, and solar company might have been better off without federal help.

Weak job numbers for California, L.A.

The state unemployment rate rose to 12.1 percent in August, up from 12.0 percent the previous month.

Air fare war breaks out ... kinda

American is offering $99 round-trip fares between Los Angeles and SF and Dallas/Fort Worth.

Don't look now, but stocks up four days in a row

More market newsletter editors are pessimistic - and that could actually be a bullish sign.

Recession odds over next 12 months: One in three

Actually, that's on the low side of other forecasts.

Netflix losing subscribers - and its stock tanks

The company recently changed its pricing, and it's not going down well.

Another reminder of why companies aren't hiring like they used to

The economy simply does not function the way it used to. Look at the role of technology.

Thursday morning headlines

Jump in jobless claims, California foreclosures, and L.A. food prices. Otherwise, all's well.

Port traffic keeps slowing down

Retailers are cautious about ordering for the holiday season.

Yahoo being circled by potential bidders

Any deal would be challenging to mount because of how the company is set up.
It's pretty pathetic that California is lumped with low-achievement states like Mississippi.

Perry says the nation should be guided by 'Christian values'

Guess that leaves the rest of us out.

Let's not jump to conclusions about Solyndra collapse

What happened to the Fremont-based solar company doesn't reflect what's going on in the solar business.

Take my hotel minibar - please

Guests hate them because they're so expensive, and hotels hate them because they're, well, so expensive.

Home sales are up, but it's still a sideways market

More business days in August meant a somewhat better month.

Wednesday morning headlines

California voters sour on Obama, planes to remain crowded, McCourt attorneys argue over spousal support, and solar executives back out of hearing.
Not that we're suggesting the university presidents are in cahoots or anything, but...
That's no doubt news to Sen. Dianne Feinstein and the other California lawmakers.

Short pause in supermarket labor talks

The protracted impasse suggests a strong reluctance by union officials to actually call for a walkout.

Is Disney's Bob Iger running for mayor of NY?

Boy, for a guy who is normally savvy about his image, this 3-minute homage is so wrong on so many levels.

Business Update on KPCC: Big dent in state environmental laws

Fat-cat developers bypassing the environmental regulatory process would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

B of A sending out lots more foreclosure filings

As much as 200 percent more in August compared with previous months.

L.A.'s super-slow recovery

GDP.jpg GDP did grow by 1.7 percent in 2010, but it lagged much of the nation.

What's ahead for California Pizza Kitchen?

Analysts are speculating about store closures, smaller menus, and perhaps a greater emphasis on bar business.

Tuesday morning headlines

Jobs bill could be DOA, poverty rate edges higher, more on campaign treasurer scandal, and why gas prices aren't coming down.

Haven't the stomach to keep watching Republican tea party debate

There's a limit to how much garbage one can ingest.

The highest-paid guy in show business is...

Would you believe Tyler Perry?

When renting a car, it pays to be in L.A.

More players usually mean greater competition and lower cost.

Another day of market volatility

Market watchers are running out of explanations.

Did 9/11 contribute to the nation's hate-mongering mentality?

Self-aware? Americans? You've got to be kidding.

House Republicans set their sights on solar company scandal

Truth be told, the White House has a lot of explaining to do.

Hollywood avoiding L.A. Live theaters

Grauman's Chinese, the Cinerama Dome and the Village in Westwood remain the preferred venues.

Monday morning headlines

Wide market swings becoming standard, B of A announces big job cuts, and groundbreaking for next phase of Expo Line.
A last-minute stab at job creation ended up in the trash last night - and it's probably just as well.

AEG stadium bill clears Senate, onto governor

Most likely, Gov. Brown, will sign the bills into law, and AEG will have its special status.
Revenues are not high enough to meet a budget target that would forestall huge cuts at the end of the year.

Nasty day on Wall Street

No special reason, it seems - just more of the same concerns.

*Report: AOL approaches Yahoo about merger

Seems unlikely for lots of reasons (including the personalities involved.)
Great discussion on Charlie Rose last night about the president's speech and Wednesday's Republican debate.

Federal payroll not nearly as large as you might think

workforce.jpg And it's shrinking - big time.
Let us clap our hands and rejoice, friends.

Free tickets for entrepreneur breakfast forum

Call it fix-as-you-go business plans.
Even if the entire measure gets through Congress, which it won't, the overall impact will be limited.

Friday morning headlines

B of A plans big job cuts, Bernanke says consumers are too anxious, legislature considers changing environmental rules, and power bills could be going up.

Power restored in San Diego

San Diego Gas & Electric says all its 1.4 million customers have had power restored.

*Massive blackout hits San Diego (updated)

San Diego Gas & Electric says 1.4 million customers are affected.

L.A. gas back up to near $4

Something about refineries selling more of their product overseas.

Here's the real problem with the Obama presidency

It's not that the president is fixated with politics - it's just that he's not very good at it.

Wal-Mart brings back layaway plan

Here's a sign that budget-conscious shoppers are struggling to make high-ticket purchases.

*Brown to announce bipartisan tax deal

Well, bipartisan with the Assembly.

Tax breaks costing California $6.3 billion more than expected

A state Senate report finds that some of them are acting as blank checks.

Google to buy Zagat

The restaurant guide started up by two NY lawyers had been on and off the block for some time.

Carol Bartz says Yahoo board 'f---ed me over'

"They're trying to show that they're not the doofuses that they are," she tells Fortune.

Thursday morning headlines

Low expectations for Obama speech, Amazon cuts deal with Sacramento, more stadium exemptions may be in the offing, and ESPN renews MNF contract.

Enough with the defense cuts already

Or so urges Antelope Valley Congressman Buck McKeon.

*Are evironmentalists caving in on stadium plan?

The Natural Resources Defense Council sure seems to be.

Dow surges 275 points

No big news, though the last I checked up is still way better than down.

Debt becoming big problem for over-60 crowd

Forget about that time-honored delight of burning your mortgage.

So what about the traffic coming out of downtown stadium?

The city's preliminary deal with Anschutz Entertainment Group is light on the mitigation front.

Small gain in property tax values

Coastal counties were up, inland counties were down.

Business Update on KPCC: What's missing in jobs debate?

The large number of long-term unemployed, and the likelihood of slow economic growth over the next several years.

Wednesday morning headlines

Government messes up on tax assessment, more stadiums may be exempt to rules, proposed ban on plastic and paper, and L.A. among toughest cities to find work.

Obama to propose $300 billion jobs package

The president's plan centers on tax cuts, infrastructure spending, and direct aid to state and local governments.

Yahoo CEO confirms being fired (sent from her iPad)

Carol Bartz is out and CFO Tim Morse has been named interim CEO.
They must be quaking in the Republican cloakroom.

Another huge jump in L.A. gas prices

Forget about oil prices tumbling - the gasoline market marches to its own mysterious drummers.

Stocks pare back earlier losses

The Dow fell 100 points, to 11,139, which is a lot better than at the start of the session.

Growing worries about another big round of state budget cuts

Get ready to kick the budget can.

Eddie Murphy to host Oscars

After last year's disastrous pairing of non-comics James Franco and Anne Hathaway, the bar is especially low.
New CFO joins company, along with two TV executives.

*Forget about the quickie tax gimmicks - they don't create jobs

The only thing they're really good at is lopping off potential tax revenues.

Looks like compromise is out the window as political strategy

These results run counter to the surveys taken around the time of the debt ceiling debate.

Tuesday morning headlines

Ugly opening for stocks, jump in California taxable sales, union workforce in L.A. is holding up, and big payday for Dodger lawyers.

AEG stadium bill is introduced to less than rave reviews

Well, what would you expect to happen when a bunch of cocky bizjocks from L.A. insist on special exemptions?

Some details emerge on Sunset Junction Festival finances

And still no word on refunds for vendors and attendees.

Free tickets for James O'Shea breakfast forum

The former editor of the LAT will be talking about the future of newspapers.

Dow drops 253

In a nutshell, no one expected the jobs report to be this bad.
It wouldn't seem that way.

So U.S. downgrade was supposed to boost interest rates, eh?

The yield on a 10-year Treasury note just fell to 1.99 percent.

Long-term unemployed a huge problem

duration1.jpg What happens to the more than six million Americans who have been out of work for six months or more?

Villaraigosa and other mayors present 'common sense' jobs agenda

But in the toxic world of Capitol Hill, nothing is a sure thing.
Some observations on this morning's weak employment report.

Friday morning headlines

More on the jobs report, gas prices shoot up, AEG bill receiving lukewarm response, and Murdoch gets big raise.

Really bad jobs report

The economy showed zero job growth in August, the first time there has been no increase in net jobs in almost a year.

Tracing the flow of microfinance around the globe

Loans being sent off to Third-World farmers and entrepreneurs - and now, two U.S. cities.

Bracing for Friday's jobs report

Well, the truth is nobody has a clue - even more so than usual.

McCourt is offered $1.2 billion for Dodgers

L.A. Marathon founder Bill Burke is leading the bid, reports the LAT.
Pretty interesting month for auto sales.

*Chronicling the hope - and pain - at L.A.'s job fair

I honestly don't know what's to become of these folks.

Is Vanity Fair still doing that annual (yawn) power list?

Does anyone need to be reminded that Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and the three dudes from Google are really big cheeses?

Thursday morning headlines

Decent economic news, Amazon offers deal in sales tax fight, bond superstar Gundlach called "unstable," and film mart considers move from Santa Monica to downtown.