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.
December 2011

Mixed year for stocks of locally based companies

All over the map - a reflection of the zigzag year that Wall Street had in general.

Wall Street's wild-and-woolly 2011 comes to a wimpering end

dow2011.gif Large companies wound up faring the best.

Roger Ebert on why box office totals are slipping

High prices and lousy films have become the default explanations, but there are others.

Teachable moment for CEOs with a roving eye?

Aren't there enough adulterous opportunities out there without resorting to unrequited dalliances?
This case would never make it on TV or in the movies.

Tribune Co. bankruptcy case on hold until May

A Chapter 11 that will never end.

Federal judge blocks California's low-carbon fuel standard

State officials plans to appeal the ruling.

Dow adds 135 points, virtually assuring gain for 2011

With one more session this year, the Dow is up 6.1 percent.

*Predictable reaction to court decision on redevelopment

Redevelopment agency officials are not happy; Brown says it will mean more revenue.

*Sears to close El Monte store

It's one of 79 U.S. locations (both Sears and Kmarts) that will be shut down.

L.A. not on list of America's 25 drunkest cities

Vegas more sober than St. Louis? Fort Myers more drunk than SF?
Two words for the CRA: Good riddance.

Business Update on KPCC: Looking ahead to 2012

Unemployment, budget deficits, the elections, pro football, a new Dodgers owner...

Amazon's fun facts on holiday business

The online retail giant is always rather selective in disclosing sales information.

L.A. in the 1950s

My favorite shot is the supermarket checkout line, pre-barcode.

Al Pacino Scene-Chewing Award of 2011

It's hard to top the "mourners" at the funeral procession for North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il.

Early estimates point to solid holiday shopping season

The big question is whether clearance prices were so low that they ate into margins.

L.A. is OK but not great when it comes to sports championships

sports.jpg As you might guess, NY is comfortably on top with 59 championships.

Here's one of the reasons Sears is in so much trouble

Money is not being spent renovating stores.

Billionaire Steven Cohen making big plans for Dodger bid

A sports architecture firm has been hired to look at renovations for Dodger Stadium,

L.A. gas prices rise 9.3% in 2011

This has been an especially tough year to figure out fuel costs

Zombie restaurants keep hanging on

Too many operators and too few customers.

Separation of church and press? Not at the SD Union-Tribune

New owner keeps hammering home the God-and-country bit.

Best and worst selling magazine covers of 2011

Sarah Jessica Parker, Heidi Klum, and Jennifer Aniston seem to do well, no matter what.

Sour news on L.A. housing market

But consumer confidence surged to the highest level since April.

Plenty of jobs out there - if you know how to sew

Manufacturers have been struggling to find qualified sewers.

Hollywood wrapping up another disappointing year

Box office grosses are down 4.2 percent from last year and attendance is off 5 percent.

Holiday hours

I'll be posting sporadically during the holiday week.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas - really

Yeah, I know - impossibly hokey (even by Christmas movie standards), and Margaret O'Brien's scene-chewing could be used to teach suicide-prevention counselors. But for pure, unadulterated schmaltz, it's hard to top Judy Garland's two-and-a-half goose-pimply minutes. As an unusually tough year comes to a close - and with 2012 not looking like any great shakes - the lyrics seem especially apt. All the best......

Occupy L.A. costs will run an extra $2 million or so

That money, while not breaking the bank, will have to come from sonewhere.

Wall Street's holiday cheer

Santa has arrived!

Angelo Mozilo expresses dismay about homeowners' plight

Inquiring minds are still asking: What did Angelo know and when did he know it?

Forever 21 is coming to France

The L.A.-based retailer will be opening its first store next month.

Flying is even safer than you think

flying.jpg The last fatal crash involving a commercial airliner in the U.S. was two years ago.

Another thumbs down on ProPublica redistricting piece

CalBuzz calls it "misleading at best, dishonest at worst and fatally flawed in any case."

Friday morning headlines

Congress clears payroll tax cut, consumer spending is weaker than expected, LAX is jammed, and Wilshire Grand on its final day.

Matt Barkley is coming back to USC

He's holding off on the NFL for another year. Says he's ready for the pros, but wants to get his degree and lead what should be a strong team next year....

*Closing in on payroll tax deal

That's according to a series of tweets by Chad Pergram of Fox News.

2012 looks solid for auto biz

Still be below the pre-recession peak, but much improved from 2009.

What to make of report on redistricting shenanigans

I honestly haven't a clue.

Catching up with accused Ponzi schemer Bruce Friedman

Friedman is still in France and his victims are not happy.

Thursday morning headlines

Possible break in payroll tax impasse, good news on jobs, worrisome news about 2012, and Long Beach rejects high-end development.

Countrywide's misdeeds have systemic smack

I can't help but believe that more than a few people should be going to jail.
Paper suggests that the Republicans cut their losses and try to make a deal.
She was 43 - a painful time for many actresses.

From now until Christmas, it's wall-to-wall Macy's

The chain will keep open 14 of its stores (none in California) until Saturday at 6 p.m. An additional 27 locations will stay open until 2 a.m. each day (see local list below). This is an expansion of the extra-hours schedule that Macy's first introduced several years ago (Toys "R" Us also has non-stop shopping until Christmas Eve). The WSJ's Justin Lahart wonders about the strategy: With some of the biggest names in retail headed...

The dirty little secrets about losing your job

There are 14 million stories in those monthly unemployment numbers.

Tiger's flunkies putting the squeeze on sports writer

He comes off as a very smart guy and he tends to make his own decisions.

Wednesday morning headlines

Standoff on payroll tax cut, California leads in job growth, housing bust worse than first thought, and Wendy's climbs to number two.

California sues Fannie and Freddie

I'm not sure how this litigation helps resolve the mortgage crisis.

Big day for stocks - for reasons that aren't exactly clear

In the old days, a 337-point gain on the Dow usually meant something. Not in 2011.
You have to wonder if even their supporters are having a little buyer's remorse.

Business Update on KPCC: Higher taxes, lower pensions?

What are the chances that voters will approve a ballot measure that raises state revenues.

Another reason I avoid getting on planes

Vigilance at least gives you a fighting chance of not getting sick.

1-percenters starting to defend themselves

They're tossing back weeks of assaults by Occupy protesters.

Tuesday morning headlines

Republicans balk at tax cut extension, holiday shopping picks up, calculating Dodger debt, and Amgen to develop generics.

Big year for tourists

The first time spending topped the $100 million mark.

Zynga has another bad day

This rarely happens with highly anticipated offerings.

B of A falls below $5 a share

Actually, all the bank stocks got clobbered today.

SBA loans available to wind victims

Homeowners, renters, businesses and nonprofits are eligible.

Note to 99-ers: Protest is one thing, involvement quite another

There's little enthusiasm to orchestrate real change.

Working into your 60 and 70s? Good luck with that

At last count, more than four million Americans aged 55 to 64 can't find full-time work.

Monday morning headlines

Investors bracing for 2012, holiday travel up slightly from 2010, Gingrich fading in Iowa, and Ontario officials oppose closing airport terminal.

Not a good opening day for Zynga

The SF online game maker saw its stock fall below the offering price.

Slowdown continues at Bob Hope Airport

Passenger traffic fell 4.7 percent in October compared with a year earlier. Through the first 10 months of 2011, the Burbank facility had 3.6 million passengers, a drop of 3.7 percent from the same period a year earlier. Cuts in airline schedules have been a factor in the decline. American recently announced it would eliminate one of its daily flights to Dallas-Fort Worth, and with the airline's recent bankruptcy filing, it wouldn't be surprising to...

New owner of SD Union-Tribune sounding like a cheerleader

This interview with "Papa" Doug Manchester should send chills down the spines of newsroom staffers.

Nervous retailers prepare for big Saturday shopping day

Some retailers are looking at the 17th, not the 24th, as their last big chance.

Big drop in California unemployment

The state jobless rate in November was 11.3 percent, down from 11.7 percent the previous month.

Friday morning headlines

L.A. inflation takes dip, SEC sues former Fannie, Freddie executives, Zynga begins trading, and Ontario airport might shut one of two terminals.

L.A. moving on up in new Milken study

Repeat after me: We're number 135! We're number 135!

'The Artist' has the pole position in race for the Oscar

A couple of notable indicators.

About those comments on independent bookstores...

My apologies for the broad brushes.

*Secrets to finding a parking space

It's all about the hover.

Slow go on arena efforts in Sacramento

Urgency has transitioned to lethargy.

Thursday morning headlines

Jobless claims hit 3-year low, NFL's Goodell rules out L.A. team next year, Lakers not happy about Paul going to Clippers, and Golden Globe nominations announced.

How many of these films have you seen this year?

I feel like I've been on a desert island.

Report: Chris Paul could be coming to Clippers after all

The league is expected to sign off on the deal tonight, reports ESPN.

Tech/Hollywood incubator funded by big names

The idea is to provide a few local start-ups with capital, office space and mentors.

Why Amazon is a better bet than your local indie bookstore

Neighborhood bookstores are inefficient, overpriced relics of a non-digital era.

Two L.A. billionaires near top of conservative donor list

Not just any conservative donor list - American Crossroads, the right-wing political group.

Woman banker has one word for you: Plastics

Anonymous 55-year-old executive says her career has been greatly enhanced.

Baby boomers are targets for scamsters

Blame their recession-related market losses.

Wednesday morning headlines

Economy shows moderate growth, L.A. Unified to sue state, UCLA squabbling with Blue Cross, and big night for Liz's jewelry.

Playboy's editorial operations moving to L.A.

The magazine will be relocating from its Chicago headquarters.

Paul Allen joined by Elon Musk and Burt Rutan in space venture

Talk about your sci-fi adventures.

Sorting through details of state budget cuts

Gov. Brown signed off on just under $1 billion worth of trims.

Brown pulls trigger on education funding; could have been worse

The cuts were necessitated when revenue for the first half of this year fell short of projections.

Here's why Best Buy has such a hard time making money

TVset.jpeg TVs have become such commodities that the retail giant is forced to sell them at ever-lower profit margins.

Can the NTSB force you to stop texting and driving?

The federal agency will recommend a nationwide ban, but there's virtually no chance of it happening.
At least there's some willingness to take a chance on new construction.

Little change in Socal housing picture - and that's not good

I suppose flat is better than down, but at some point the numbers will have to look a lot better than what's being reported by Dataquick for November. Sales in L.A. County were up 5.8 percent from a year earlier and were unchanged from October. Prices were up down 5.2 percent from a year earlier and up 2.6 percent from October. Of particular concern for Southern California: Sales above $500,000 fell nearly 16 percent from...

Sorry Occupiers, but the 1% ain't what it used to be

Its share of income fell to 17 percent in 2009 from 23 percent in 2007.

Free tickets for Marc Freedman breakfast

He's founder and CEO of the think tank Civic Ventures.

Tuesday morning headlines

Retail sales disappoint, Best Buy profits tumble, support for Brown's tax plan, and champagne business pops.
The Georgia-based chain has a long history of intolerance.

Can U.S. unemployment rate fall to 8% by next November?

Yes, though for reasons that don't necessarily mesh with an improved economy.

Clippers trade for Chris Paul appears dead

Once again, the NBA appears to be blocking the deal.

Cops declare unlawful assembly at Port of Long Beach

They've cleared about 200 Occupy protesters who had blocked an entrance.

Monday morning headlines

Protesting at Port of Long Beach, Clippers closing in on Chris Paul, bad notices for Kindle Fire, and Madoff regrets guilty plea.
Gallup asked that question and, as you might expect, came up with a splintered response. Of the folks polled, 23 percent said between $100,000 and $150,000; 18 percent said between $150,001 and $299,999, 14 percent said between $300,000 and $999,999, 11 percent said $1 million, and 4 percent more than $1 million. The median response was $150,000, which is certainly not considered "rich" in many parts of L.A. Then again, responses to this sort of...

SpaceX will get its first trip to the Space Station

Huge deal for the Hawthorne-based company that's headed by entrepreneur Elon Musk.

One more vote against NBA decision to kill Chris Paul deal

The league, and NBA Commissioner David Stern in particular, are getting reamed.

Angelo Mozilo cuts asking price on Thousand Oaks home

AMozilo_TO_PICS3.jpg The disgraced former CEO of Countrywide Financial had put the 6,238-square-foot home on the market in July for $3.68 million, according to Redfin, but Real Eastalker posts that the price was reduced in mid-October to $3.4 million. As you can see by the photos, the place has been vacated; he apparently purchased the home in 2000 with a $700,000 mortgage. These days, the whereabouts of Mozilo and his wife Phyllis are not known, but over...

Days to avoid the malls

Forecast of heaviest traffic and sales days.

Friday morning headlines

Markets mulling European debt deal, Toyota slashes profit outlook, consumer sentiment edges higher, and Howard Buffett to succeed his father.

Chaos in the aftermath of NBA nixing Chris Paul deal

The three teams involved in the blockbuster trade - the Lakers, Rockets and Hornets - will appeal the league's veto. Good luck with that.

*Report: Gasol and Odom likely traded for Chris Paul

Wowser - Details are being finalized.

Trump-moderated debate losing most of the players

The ludicrous event is down to Gingrich and Santorum.

Cardinal fans feeling the Pujols sting

A 10-year deal with the Angels might be pushing it.

State coffers looking a bit better

That still leaves the state $1 billion behind in revenues and $2 billion in expenditures.

Here's a sign that the Inland Empire economy may be turning

Developers are proceeding with eight spec warehouse buildings.

Thursday morning headlines

Jobless claims drop to 9-month low, Pac Sun closes up to 200 stores, Angels sign Pujols, and NBA players to vote on contract.

Alec Baldwin apologizes for outburst

"It was never my intention to inconvenience anyone," he wrote on the Huffington Post.

State officials look into prolonged outages

California Pubic Utilities Commission wants to know why it's taken so long to get everyone back on line.

Investors are back to liking the U.S. economy

More than two in five of those surveyed say the U.S. will be among the best-performing markets.

California corporations not paying their fair share?

Corporate profits are often out of line with state income taxes.

Alleged hijinks on the set of 'House'

A production member of the Fox medical series describes a frat-boy type vibe.

New owner of SD Union-Tribune just wanted you to know...

New tag line: "The World's Greatest Country & America's Finest City."

Preparing for The Donald debate

Jon Stewart and his writers can't wait.

Yea or nay on Villaraigosa's Asian trip?

I give it a qualified yea, especially since the mayor is going to China, Japan, and South Korea.

Wednesday morning headlines

Improving economic forecasts, Brown's pension plan scores well, McCourt can keep parking lots, and Martha Stewart's deal with J.C. Penney.

Always worth remembering Oct. 24, 1929

crash3.jpg The market had lost over $30 billion in the space of two days. You know the rest.

What's taken Socal Edison so long to get the power back on?

As of this afternoon, several thousand customers are still without electricity.

Beijing air forces cancellation of hundreds of flights

Chinese authorities insist that the murk is just fog.

Daily Show takes on California initiative process

With an able assist from former state Sen. John Burton.
It's hard to argue with sequel success.

Tuesday morning headlines

Why bankers aren't prosecuted, NFL nears TV deal, Forever 21 expands in China, and Californians oppose bullet train.

Brown announces tax plan

Governor's proposed ballot measure would generate $7 billion for education.

Romney staff's justification for lies, distortion

This is already a leitmotif of the Republican campaign: Just make stuff up.

FAA administrator charged with DUI

Randy Babbitt was arrested after being spotted driving on the wrong side of the road.

Free tickets for Howard Marks breakfast

This should be a good one.

Disney finally cuts deal with hotel union

Took four years, but the Mouse House has come to terms with Anaheim hotel workers.

Monday morning headlines

No more next-day mail, L.A. faces budget shortfall, Volt sales are sluggish, and Dodgers will have low payroll on opening day.

Port clerical workers set up picket lines

Negotiations broke off with harbor employers a couple of days ago.

The race to raise state taxes

Suddenly it's the thing to do.

Did the economy add 500,000 jobs in November?

Another one of the government's obscure numbers.

Who gets to see the employment report before everybody else?

The question periodically comes up in the context of wacko conspiracy theories.

Magic Johnson going after Dodgers

And he apparently has the money lined up.

Friday morning headlines

Big banks sued on foreclosures, L.A. sues pot dispensaries, and Villaraigosa headed to Asia.

Why did the jobless rate go down so much?

More people found work, but more people dropped out of the workforce.

Disney directors get handsome raise

The company has gone through several rounds of layoffs in the last year or two.

Big month for auto sales

Here's one more indication of an economy that's considerably stronger than what's being advertised.

Among L.A.'s 1% (or thereabouts): Port pilots

Their wages are paid by shippers who use the harbor.

Gingrich with a 38%-17% lead over Romney?

The Romney folks have to be really nervous.

Best airport in the world?

Singapore's Changi Airport has so many menities that some travelers choose to stay a while.

Thursday morning headlines

Retailers generally strong in November, LAX back in operation, Brown pushes for ballot initiative on tax increases, and Harry Potter coming to Hollywood.