Thursday morning headlines

Stocks around the line: Mixed bag of news keeps the Dow index flat.

Jobless claims fall: Weekly filings were down 12,000, to 367,000, another sign that job growth is picking up. A bigger indicator is the employment report for January, which comes out tomorrow. (Reuters)

Mixed results for retailers: Costco and Target reported January sales that were above expectations, while Macy's and Dillard's were below analysts' estimates. From AP:

January typically is when shoppers are lured into stores by the big discounts retailers offer on winter clothes and shoes so they can make room for spring merchandise. But this January, consumer confidence fell over renewed worries about the economy after surging during the holiday shopping season. Also, the unseasonably warm weather made markdowns on down coats and furry boats unappealing to shoppers. As a result, many clothing chains posted sales at stores open at least a year - an indicator of a retailer's health - that were lackluster. Stores that offer more of a variety in merchandise seemed to fare better.

New chief at Sony: Kazuo Hirai takes over as the Japanese electronics giant posts a $2.1 billion fourth-quarter loss. Hirai succeeds Howard Stringer. From Reuters:

Hirai, a 51-year old Sony veteran known for reviving the PlayStation gaming operations through aggressive cost-cutting, said he would not hesitate to scale back or withdraw from businesses if they were not competitive. "I have a very strong sense of crisis about the environment surrounding us," Hirai told a news conference. "We cannot be afraid to make painful choices for the future of Sony. Our rivals and the operating environment won't wait for us."

California's Facebook payday: Legislative Analyst's Office estimates that the state could reap $1 billion or more in the near term as employees of the Silicon Valley company profit from the IPO. From AP:

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat from Sacramento, cautioned that it's unclear when tax revenue from those reaping the benefits of Facebook shares will reach state coffers. Democrats are, however, using the so-called Facebook effect to delay the governor's proposed cuts to social programs. California's general fund relies heavily on income tax and capital gains taxes, which are sure to see a bump with the wealth to be made off Facebook stock sales.

Record spending in Sacramento: Businesses, unions and other special interests shelled out $285 million to influence state lawmakers. Education, health care and the proposed downtown stadium were the top issues. (LAT)

Universal's housing plan opposed: L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky asked Universal Studios President Ron Meyer to drop a proposed development of nearly 3,000 condominiums and apartments. The plan has been getting mostly negative reviews from nearby residents who worry about added congestion. (LAT)

Honda loses small claims suit: L.A. County court commissioner rules that the car company misled the owner of a Civic hybrid over gas mileage. Award was $9,867.19. From the LAT:

Her award was far greater than the damages [Heather Peters] would have collected had she signed onto a class-action-lawsuit settlement over similar claims against Honda. Peters sued Honda after learning that the proposed settlement covering her 2006 vehicle would pay trial lawyers $8.5 million while Civic hybrid owners would get as little as $100 and rebate coupons for the purchase of a new car.

City sues Northern Trust: The company is accused of placing the assets of L.A.'s employee pension fund in unsuitable, "highly risky" investments. From Bloomberg:

The city paid the asset manager $95.8 million last year for losses in a fund in which Northern Trust invested the pension fund's collateral that it received for its securities that Northern Trust loaned to short sellers, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich said in a complaint filed today in state court in Los Angeles. The collateral, the profits of which get split between the pension fund and the asset manager, were supposed to be invested in a way that would produce minimum risk, according to the complaint. Instead, Northern Trust, which didn't share in the losses from the invested collateral, put them in highly risky investments, according to the complaint.

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 California stories:
Volcanic cinder in Owens Valley
Holiday shopping: On your marks, get set... spend!
14 California bookstores in nine days
Uproar over health care sites could be settling down
BART strike to end Tuesday in the Bay Area

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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
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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