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.
January 2012

How many Kindles did Amazon sell in fourth quarter?

A reasonable question, but one that the online retailer refuses to disclose.

Best January for stocks since '97

Well, that's the good news.

California running out of cash?

The state needs to scrape together $3.3 billion by March.

Q&A on the rise and fall of California redevelopment agencies

Tomorrow is the day that more than 400 of them are scheduled to go out of business.

Firing of LAT pressman remains a mystery

You figure they would have had plenty of practice by now.

Free tickets: Marketing the big ideas

Former global Marketing Officer at Procter & Gamble, will be at the next Live Talks Business Forum.

Tuesday morning headlines

Drop in consumer confidence, Peter O'Malley still in the Dodger bidding, Greuel gets Hollywood money, and Kaiser nurses on strike.

Greuel leads in mayoral fundraising sweepstakes

That several million dollars have been raised tells you something about big-city politics.

Mark Cuban on not advancing in Dodger auction

He says the sale is too intertwined with the team's TV rights deal.

Bad times for L.A. nonprofits that help people in need

Blame the recession - specifically funding cuts and greater demand.

Was Bank Transfer Day a big deal after all?

Yes and no. A total of 5.6 million people moved their accounts over the past 90 days, a nearly three-times increase from the same period a year earlier. But of that amount, only 11 percent cited the Occupy-related campaign called Bank Transfer Day. Javelin Strategy and Research says that the percentage is "certainly not the massive departure banks might have feared." But the amount of switching, whatever the explanation, is certainly higher than usual, and...

Reminder of how much the housing market has collapsed

housing.jpg Some charts really do tell the story.
Asking price is too high for showbiz firms being sought.

Monday morning headlines

Consumer spending turns sluggish, Pep Boys bought by L.A. firm, Kerkorian considers showbiz properties, and Brown dispute cost estimates for bullet train.

Bernie Parks out as Budget Committee chairman

He's one of the few people who had some idea of how the numbers are supposed to add up.

California approves auto emission rules

That includes a mandate to have 1.4 million electric and hybrid vehicles on state roads by 2025.

When does Bank of America stop being a national joke?

Not for a while, judging by this.

Facebook to file for IPO next week

What could become the mother of all public offerings will formally get underway as early as Wednesday, reports the WSJ, citing sources. The company is currently looking at a valuation of $75 billion to $100 billion. It would take several months before Facebook actually becomes a public company. Facebook's IPO, which people familiar with the matter earlier said could raise as much as $10 billion, has been hotly anticipated as a defining moment for the...

State Supreme Court denies redistricting challenge

The Senate maps drawn by a citizens commission can be used in this year's elections.

Not loving those GDP numbers

GDP2.jpg A growth rate of 2.8% is not the kick-start that the economy requires.

Friday morning headlines

Economy moves modestly, pension shortfall shrinks a bit, consumer sentiment improves, and Ari Emanuel's parking squabble.

The reason L.A.'s traffic is horrible but not impossible

It's all in the way stoplights are timed.
An interesting take on what's going on.

LAX expansion taking shape

IMG_9726.JPG One of those positive stories that's not getting as much notice as it should.

How your iPads and iPhones get made

It isn't pretty.

Lakers most valuable NBA franchise

The purple and gold top the NY Knicks, according to Forbes.

Thursday morning headlines

Better poll numbers for Obama, council redistricting madness, Amgen buys big biotech company, and Rosie ratings plummet.

Netflix sees steady erosion in DVD rental business

"We expect DVD subscriptions to decline steadily for every quarter forever," says the CEO.

Don't you wish you had bought Apple shares on Monday?

apple3.jpg The stock is up over 6 percent today, to $447 and change.

*Fed foresees recovery dragging on through 2014

That's the takeaway from this morning's announcement that short-term rates are expected to remain close to zero through at least 2014. That compares with the Federal Reserve's earlier forecast of mid-2013. By keeping rates so low, the Fed is hoping to spur spending and growth. From the NYT: The decision means that the Fed does not expect the economy to complete its recovery from the 2008 crisis over the next three years. By holding rates...

Fast food pushing late night

Midnight to 5 a.m. is the fastest growing time segment for U.S. sales at McDonald's, which helps explain why nearly 40 percent of the company's U.S. outlets are open around the clock. Burger King has several hundred of its stores open 24 hours a day. From the WSJ: Pat Treffiletti, a franchisee who owns four McDonald's in Albany, N.Y., was taken aback when a student in a college class he addressed a few years ago...

Traffic up at LAX

The airport saw a 4.7 percent increase in passengers last year.

Jon Stewart takes apart Romney's taxes

It's not that he did anything wrong - it's that he doesn't believe what he gets away with is wrong.

Wednesday morning headlines

Interest rates on hold, more bad reviews for bullet train, McCourt gets skewered, and telenovelas in English.
SF's unemployment rate in December was 7.6 percent, while Imperial County had a rate was almost 27 percent.

New poll suggests Brown's tax plan faces a tough road

California voters like the idea of the rich paying more taxes, but nearly two-thirds oppose raising the sales tax.

What do the Romney tax returns show?

Frankly, not much, other than the fact that he's a super-rich guy.
And for a very simple reason: Hollywood pays lawmakers a lot better.

Big drop in L.A. foreclosures

Still unclear why it's happening.

Disney pulls out of Port of L.A.

Another blow to the local cruise business.

Tuesday morning headlines

Romney's taxes, weak returns for Calpers, Happy Hour at Starbucks, and Silicon Valley's average salary tops 100K.

Disneyland loosens dress code, allows beards

Geez, Walt must be spinning.

Watch out for these 3 economic indicators

From now until election day, it's all about gas prices, the stock market and the jobless rate.

L.A.'s woeful efforts at getting federal grants

Another reminder of the city's bureaucratic ineptitude.

Huge jump in number of people owning tablets, e-readers

ebooks.jpg Gift-giving during the holidays.

*Here's why the private equity tax loopholes are such a racket

Good luck trying to explain this away during a debate.

Free tickets: How to predict winning innovations

Michael Raynor, co-author of "The Innovator's Solution" and a director at Deloitte Consulting, will be featured at the next Live Talks Business Forum on Thursday morning at the City Club. He'll be in conversation with Karen Kerr, Senior Director of New Ventures and Alliances at USC. Breakfast starts at 7:45 and the program at 8:15. For free tickets, click here....

Monday morning headlines

Dodger bidding begins, LAX expansion delays, layoffs for JC Penney, and little urgency on pension reform.

California new car sales increase 10% in 2011

The basic explanation is an improving economy coupled with pent-up demand.

Another big payday for Disney's CEO

Bob Iger's compensation totaled $31.4 million in 2011.

Dodger debt total: $573 million

Everybody will be paid off once the team is sold. The Chapter 11 reorganization plan is set for court approval on April 13. From the LAT: The Dodgers say they intend to exit bankruptcy by April 30, the same day by which outgoing owner Frank McCourt has to satisfy two obligations: (1) close the sale of the team, under his agreement with Major League Baseball; (2) pay his ex-wife Jamie $131 million, under his divorce...

OC jobless rate falls to 7.8%

It's the lowest level in almost three years and fourth-lowest in the state.

Gingrich inching ahead of Romney in South Carolina

He's leading 32-26 in the latest Clemson University poll.

What Americans don't know about their tax rates

The reality is that all taxes should be raised, not lowered.

Jobless rates edge lower in L.A., California

California's unemployment rate in December was 11.1 percent, down from 11.3 percent the previous month.

Friday morning headlines

Anti-piracy votes postponed, Hollywood hoping to cut deal, former GE lending unit under investigation, and mayor eyes China for funding help.

Skid Row job center gets some help from downtown businesses

Nice to see that Chrysalis will receive $200,000 from a group of downtown businesses.

Is Villaraigosa aide running for City Council?

Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Szabo does not preclude the possibility.

Mayoral candidate Austin Beutner talks jobs

But what about the city's deficit - not to mention its institutional stagnation?

Online advertising to top print for the first time

A real milestone in the migration to digital content.

McCourts' divorce finalized

Frank and Jamie were on hand this morning to complete the paperwork.

Southwest to squeeze more seats into planes

Southwest did say that it's reducing the amount of recline.

Thursday morning headlines

Jobless claims tumble, Kodak files Chapter 11, big lease for Port of Long Beach, and Ticketmaster moves to Facebook.

Mark Cuban's HDNet to undergo makeover

The cable network will be rebranded as AXS TV.

*Support for piracy bills? It's going, going, gone

It's the predictable but still stunning fallout to today's protests.

Romney on private equity debt vs. Romney on U.S. debt

Seems that debt is fine and dandy, except in the cases when it's not.

Reaction to Brown's State of the State

Everyone is saying pretty much what you'd expect them to say.

Former L.A. housing official accused of bribery, conspiracy

Contracts were allegedly awarded to companies controlled by the official's brothers,

David Beckham will return to the L.A. Galaxy

The deal is done, reports the LAT.

Villaraigosa's hand-out mentality

His faulty calculus is almost as distressing as the no-new-tax mantra we hear from the right.

Business Update on KPCC: L.A.'s world of private equity

Quite a few firms in the region doing quite a few deals.

Brown covers the basics in State of the State

Not much for flourishes, the governor spoke about the need to raise taxes and reduce the budget.

Brown delivering State of the State address

Here's a copy of the text....

Wednesday morning headlines

Previewing Brown's address, Calpers downsizes portfolio, new councilman for 15th district, and Sundance gets underway.

One less tax reform plan to worry about next November

The Think Long Committee will not pursue its tax overhaul plan this year.

*Jerry Yang resigns from Yahoo

One of those end-of-an-era stories - and yet one that isn't all that surprising.

George Lucas gets snubbed by every studio in Hollywood

He was turned down by all the studios.

Why Hollywood is losing the anti-piracy war

Freedom of expression is winning out over protection of content.

Another city giveaway for a downtown hotel?

This is truly insane.

Port traffic in 2011: Strong in spots, weak in spots

It's still cheaper for shippers to use L.A. or Long Beach rather than NY and New Jersey.

Sluggish housing market is holding up the works

Still no sign of a significant turnaround in December.

Tuesday morning headlines

Weak bank earnings, more homeless receiving welfare, doubts on rail alternatives, and rocket mission delayed.

Wikipedia goes dark on Wednesday

If you've yet to hear about SOPA and PIPA, get ready for an quick orientation.

SAG and AFTRA finally closing in on merger

They still have to present the plan to the two boards.

Want to sell your house? Try a drone

Apparently it's a cheaper way to go than hiring a helicopter.

Socal hotels filling up, charging more

Room rates in L.A. County averaged $148.72 in November, up 2.8 percent from a year earlier.

Monday morning headlines

Carnival takes hit from cruise accident, "VIP" loans linked to local congressmen, and L.A. office market picking up.

City Attorney's Office proposes 'gentle ban' on selling pot

That would effectively shut down all marijuana dispensaries in L.A.

S&P takes apart much of Europe

Besides single notch downgrades of France, Austria, Malta, Slovakia, and Slovenia, S&P has announced two notch downgrades for Italy, Portugal, Cyprus, and Spain. Germany, Finland, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands maintain their AAA status. Germany and Slovakia are the only Eurozone nations without negative outlooks. From the S&P statement (via Business Insider): Today's rating actions are primarily driven by our assessment that the policy initiatives that have been taken by European policymakers in recent weeks may...

*S&P lowers French credit rating a notch

Other downgrades could be imminent for Italy, Spain, and Portugal.

Lionsgate buys Summit Entertainment

The deal that has been talked about for months finally gets done. Sale price is $412.5 million.

Murdoch on MySpace: 'We screwed up in every way possible'

That was his simple and succinct tweet Thursday night, adding that, "[we] learned lots of valuable expensive lessons." In case you've missed it, the News Corp. chairman is now on Twitter and his every tweet is getting examined closely. News Corp. bought MySpace in 2005 for $580 million, and then saw the bottom fall out before finally unloading the L.A.-based social networking site last year for $35 million. (The Wrap)...

Capitalism, Chinese style

An amazing scene, on all sorts of levels.

Friday morning headlines

B of A may pull back, consumer sentiment on the rise, American is being eyed by two airlines, and council considers marijuana ban.

Dodger bidder Steven Cohen joins MOCA board

The hedge fund billionaire's L.A. state of mind.

*Romney's jaw-dropping answer on income distribution

Not just insensitive, but politically nonsensical.

Maze of websites promising the lowest airfares

The current system is a mess, but at least it's better than before deregulation.

How Fed misjudged housing bubble in 2006

Yet another reminder of how the experts can get it wrong, big time.
State lawmakers have come to rely on one-time windfalls.

Thursday morning headlines

More money heading to Mexico, report questions Brown's budget numbers, Fox seeking stake in Dodgers, and Apple stores coming to Target.

Are the rich in California getting richer or not?

Here's a good example of why the state should not be so reliant on tax revenues from the very wealthy.

China clamps down on dating shows

Government officials have been bothered by the flashy, sexy formats of game shows.

Council votes against prolonging redevelopment

Despite heavy lobbying by developers, council members decided it wasn't a good idea.

California doesn't have the worst credit any more

Who said things weren't turning around?

Why so many bidders for the Dodgers?

Rich guys have money on their hands and it's actually a pretty good business.

Wednesday morning headlines

Redevelopment would be costly to continue, Fox and Dodgers settle differences, Raiders eying L.A., and OJ prices might be going up.

*Networks expected to call it for Romney at 5 p.m.

The bigger question, of course, is by how much.

Oprah network's secret to success: Oprah

She drew 1.6 million viewers for the second program in her series, "Oprah's Next Chapter." That's a 45 percent jump from the series premiere, which featured Steven Tyler. From THR: Next Chapter also improved among the network's favored women 25-54 demographic, adding 18 percent from the previous episode for a 1.3 rating. The series also built on its audience in the second half hour, growing from 1.5 million to 1.6 million. The premiere of Oprah's...

State coffers come up short - again

December turned out to be a lousy month on the tax collection front.

So much for Alan Casden's housing plans across from the Grove

Property has been sold to Ross Stores Inc., which is already at the location.

Business Update on KPCC: High gas prices but low inflation

Other stuff that we buy is actually cheaper than it was last year.

Greedy plaintiffs attorneys going after BP's $20 billion fund

Program to compensate victims of Deepwater Horizon accident squeezes out lawyers.

Are Japan's 'lost decades' a myth or not?

Deciphering what actually happened could be an important clue in understanding the U.S. economy.

Jon Stewart chomps on Romney's "pious boloney"

Actually it was Gingrich accusing Romney of "pious baloney." Still nutty.

Tuesday morning headlines

Consumer credit back up, gas prices keep climbing, Tiffany sales weaken, and big payday for Jobs' successor.

Revenue gains from Brown's tax measure disputed

It's not all that surprising to have differing revenue estimates.

Nice summation of where employment stands

You have to look at several factors to understand what's happening.

American to close operations at Bob Hope Airport

The airline, now in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, had only been offering flights to Dallas - and that route wasn't profitable.

Time to put the brakes on California bullet train

I'm not sure there's a place these days for massively expensive and lengthy public works projects.

Watch out California taxpayers, it's a whole new ballgame

The Franchise Tax Board is requiring that property taxes be split between deductible and non-deductible portions.

NFL confirms tiff with Leiweke over proposed team ownership

Several owners objected to this idea because it upends the current NFL business model.

Monday morning headlines

Wall Street gets pay cut, Lions Gate, Summit inch towards deal, windfall for L.A. County retirees, and L.A. bankruptcies take tumble.

L.A.'s misguided push for more convention business

Greater supply and lesser demand - and city officials keep march on.

Here's one way to contain California's wall of debt

Just take on as little as possible.

Want a 22,000% return? Just invest in business lobbying

Well, specifically, 2004's American Jobs Creation Act.

Another way of looking at the jobs report

jobsschool.jpg Payroll report may actually be understating the strength of the recovery.

C'mon, Rick Santorum didn't say that....

Republican candidate's explanation for the drop in unemployment.

Friday morning headlines

Weak December for Best Buy, gas prices heading back up, Burkle's show business plays, and Taft building sold.

Nice jobs report - but what about California?

The gap between the state jobless rate and the national jobless rate remains very wide.

Hold your horses on those Brown budget analyses

Budgets are never to be taken seriously at this early stage.

Brown's 2012-13 budget proposal

Here it is....

*Brown's budget: Pass those tax increases or else...

Or else he'll make $4.8 billion in cuts to public schools.
He told a documentary producer that he had said everything he wanted to say.

*Why crime keeps falling in a still-weak economy

This counterintuitive trend has had criminologists scratching their heads for several years now. Various theories are being offered, including the simplest: There is little or no correlation between crime and the economy. From the New Republic: Consider, after all, the two big crime epidemics in the twentieth century--the first took root in the late 1960s, during a period of healthy growth; the other came during the economic doldrums of the late '80s and early '90s....

American dead last in customer service - again

scoring.jpg The best-performing carrier last year was Alaska Airlines, with Delta a surprising second.

Olbermann feuding with his boss? What a surprise!!!!

The Peck's Bad Boy of liberal media is at it again. Does anyone still care?

Thursday morning headlines

Stocks slump: Traders remain fixated on Europe, despite better-than-expected job news. Dow is down about 100 points. Jobless claims fall: Weekly filings for unemployment insurance were down 15,000, to 372,000. That's 11 percent lower than the same time last year. December jobs report comes out Friday. (AP) Private hiring surges: Employers added 325,000 new workers in December, according to ADP, far surpassing expectations of a 178,000 gain. From Reuters: "The number is stunning," said Wayne...

Why Congress will never compromise on taxes, deficit

congress.jpg Check out the chart - it's revealing and scary.

More folks moving into California than moving out

Perhaps more significant: California was the seventh most popular moving destination.

Dow is 2-for-2 in 2012

Investors are paying a bit more attention about the first week of trading.

Kodak's ugly fall

In 1997, the company had a market value of almost $30 billion. Today, it's down to $145 million.

Disney scratches its last cruises to Mexico in 2012

Left unclear is whether this means a move out of L.A. or simply a new destination out of L.A. (possibly Hawaii).

Wednesday morning headlines

Strong year for Chrysler, gas prices on the rise, Obama to name consumer agency chief, and Oprah has good and bad news.
No indication what his role would be in the Dodger organization.

How New Yorkers view California

map.jpg Tale of two cities.

Dow gains 179 points in first trading day of 2012

Stocks typically go up in election years, but...

What kind of president would Romney be?

GOP wackadoodles running the government is about the best hand that Obama has for winning reelection.

L.A. on-location shooting up 4.2% in 2011

Feature production was up 5.7 percent, and TV was down 2.7 percent.

Report: Academy considers leaving the Kodak Theatre

Other venues will be considered after the 2013 show.

Business Update on KPCC: Going from crisis mode to normalcy

At some point businesses will have to stop being on the defensive.
This is the division that makes Marks-A-Lot pens, HI-LITERS and other pens and labels.

Tuesday morning headlines

Wall Street off to a strong start, mayor defers payments, B of A cuts of small business credit, and Super Bowl ad time sold out.