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 Kaufman, chief market analyst at John Thomas Financial in New York. "This is another data point that shows our economy is healing. It fits in well with improvements we've seen in consumer sentiment, and obviously that's because there are more people getting paychecks, which is making everyone happier."
Discounts hurt December profits: Retailers are reporting mixed sales for the month. Macy's did well, but Target, Kohl's, and J.C. Penney fell short. From the WSJ:
Overall, "It was a holiday period characterized by sharp promotions and retailers pulling out all stops by expanding hours," said John Long, retail strategist at Kurt Salomon. "What's remarkable in the numbers so far are that while there were some standouts, this didn't produce the extraordinary results we might have expected. This does not bode well for the fourth-quarter and year-end results that retailers will soon be reporting."
Nook might be spun off: Barnes & Noble is considering the split as a way of protecting the ebook reader from the rest of the chain's troubles. The company expects to report a loss of $1.10 to $1.40 a share for the year. (DealBook)
Health care costs on the rise: Premiums for employer insurance plans in California have risen 153.5 percent since 2002, according to a study, and in the past two years the percentage of state employers offering coverage to workers fell to 63 percent from 73 percent. From the LAT:
Patrick Johnston, president of the California Assn. of Health Plans, blamed the rising premiums on expensive technology, the spread of chronic disease and an aging population, among other factors. Johnston's organization represents 40 California health plans that cover 21 million people. What's more, he noted that years of cutting reimbursements to doctors and hospitals by the government-run Medi-Cal program have created a "cost shift" that has to be "made up in negotiations for higher rates for commercial payers such as employers."
Military cuts having local impact: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lays out plans to trim $450 billion from the Pentagon budget over the next 10 years, but the aerospace industry has been preparing for more than a year. From the LAT:
Last January, Boeing said it was cutting 900 jobs at its sprawling Long Beach plant, where it builds C-17 cargo jets. In June, Lockheed Martin Corp. announced that it was cutting about 1,500 positions across its aeronautics business, including jobs in California. In August, Northrop Grumman Corp. said it was cutting 500 jobs in its aerospace division, which is spread throughout the Southland. "Companies are in the middle of adjusting to the new budget realities," said Fred Downey, a national security analyst with the Aerospace Industries Assn., an Arlington, Va., trade group.
Dollar General expanding in California: Discount chain plans to open 50 stores in the state this year, along with a distribution center. The first location will be in San Bernardino County. (LAT)
Madoff investors lose out: Judge rules that the folks who got scammed through Madoff feeder funds (that includes a bunch of Socal victims) do not qualify as customers of the swindler and therefore do not quality for money being collected by a court-appointed trustee. (Reuters)
Slight gain for album sales: Adele's "21" helped eke out a 1.3 percent increase from 2010. That's the first time since 2004 that sales finished on the plus side. From the NYT:
After Adele's "21," the most popular titles of 2011 were Michael Bublé's "Christmas" (143/Reprise), with 2.45 million sales; Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" (Interscope), with 2.1 million; Lil Wayne's "Tha Carter IV" (Cash Money/Universal Republic), with 1.92 million; and the country singer Jason Aldean's "My Kinda Party" (Broken Bow), which had 1.58 million sales.