Thursday morning headlines

Stocks picking up: After a sluggish opening, Wall Street is pushing upward. Dow is up about 100 points.

Apple bouncing around: Stocks took a big hit in after-hours trading after word of Steve Jobs' death, but last I checked shares are back up.

Jobs biography moved up: Publication date of "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson is now Oct. 24. It currently tops Amazon's best-selling list, even in pre-order. (WSJ)

Jobless claims inch higher: Weekly filings rose 6,000, to 401,000 - not nearly low enough to suggest much change in the employment picture. (AP)

Retailers have decent month: Target, Limited Brands and Macy's reported strong sales in September, with consumers focusing on promotional merchandise. From AP:

"Bargains drove the month," said Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics, a research firm. "There were lot of deals to be had, and we expect to see that follow through the rest of the year." The revenue gains at stores open at least a year - a key indicator of a retailer's health - come as merchants look for a sign of how consumers will spend during the winter holiday season that runs roughly November through December. Although many retailers are reporting strong increases in September, concerns linger that shoppers who are fretting about high unemployment, a weak housing market and a turbulent stock market will continue to look for the kind of big bargains that could significantly eat away at retailers' profits.

Costco raising membership fees: The 10 percent hike is an effort to offset soaring costs that have eaten into profit margins. From Bloomberg:

Costco has hesitated to raise its prices, for fear of losing its appeal with consumers who are willing to pay a membership fee to get a good a deal on everything from milk to televisions. But that made it less profitable in its fiscal fourth quarter than analysts anticipated. "That is the tightrope this company walks: keeping prices low and managing margins as well as possible to justify membership fee," said Matt Arnold, consumer staples analyst for Edward Jones.

Mortgage rates keep falling: Stunning: The average rate on a 30-year fixed is 3.94 percent. And still home sales are sluggish. (AP)

Extending business tax holiday? L.A. City Council members Eric Garcetti and Mitch Englander would give companies moving to the city a tax break through 2015 (the current tax holiday runs through the end of 2015). (City Maven)

B of A explains website problems: A botched upgrade, coupled by heavy customer traffic, are behind the glitches that have dragged on for a week - and further tarnished the bank's image. (WSJ)

More about new movie museum: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which will lease the old May Co. space from LACMA, wants to open the museum in three years. From THR:

The new LACMA plan marks a major shift in AMPAS' previous movie museum efforts and is a blow to Hollywood stakeholders who had hoped a movie museum would help in the continued revitalization of the area. The Academy had long planned to build a 144,000-square-foot development on Hollywood property it began acquiring in 2005 at the cost of up to $50 million. French architect Christian de Portzamparc designed a sleek, modern edifice, but just before a significant fundraising campaign would have begun, the project was derailed by the economic collapse that began in earnest in fall 2008. The 3.5-acre site, which is located across from ArcLight Cinemas on Vine, has sat vacant for a handful of years; in August area stakeholders told THR it had become an eyesore.

Mattel cuts ties with paper company: The El Segundo-based toymaker will stop buying paper and packaging that has been linked to deforestation in Indonesia. From the LAT:

Mattel's move comes after Greenpeace tested packaging from the company's toys, packaged in Indonesia, and found the cardboard contained significant amounts of timber from Indonesian rain forests. The group used Mattel's advertising campaign that featured a "reunion" between Barbie and Ken to draw attention to the packaging, sending an activist dressed as Ken and another as Barbie, who drove a pink skip loader to the company's corporate office in June. They hung a banner from the building that read: "Barbie: It's Over. I don't date girls that are into deforestation."

Caltech receives top honors: It's now ranked the world's best research university by a British journal, beating Harvard for the first time. (LAT)

March on banks: The Refund California folks will be protesting outside the downtown offices of Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo, starting at noon. It's part of a week-long series of actions that take aim at the big banks' lending practices.

New bidder for 99 Cents Only Stores: Private equity firm Ares Capital is topping an offer from Leonard Green & Partners for the deep discount chain. Another firm, Apollo Global Management, dropped out several weeks ago because of financing issues. (NY Post)

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?
Recent Economy stories:
Those awful infographics that promise to explain and only distort
Best to low-ball today's employment report
Exit interview with Port of L.A.'s executive director
L.A. developers relying on foreign investors bend a few rules
Holiday shopping: On your marks, get set... spend!

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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
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