Stocks edge lower: Well, that was fast. The Dow is below 13,000 again, perhaps influenced by the lukewarm comments this morning by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. For investors, it's a tough call. From the WSJ:
With stocks up so far in such a short time, money managers find themselves torn between concerns the market is overdue for some kind of pullback and fears the market's strength could leave them regretting any decision to get out now. Reflecting those competing pressures, trading volumes have waned this year and, over the past week in particular, daily stock moves have been limited. Tuesday's gains left the Dow at 13005.12 on a gain of 23.61 points, or 0.2%.
Growth revised upward: The economy grew at an annual rate of 3 percent in the fourth quarter, up from the initial 2.8 percent estimate. That's solid but not spectacular growth. (CNNMoney)
No change in interest rates: They're staying super-low until at least late 2014, according to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who says that the economy continues to grow modestly. He considers the run-up in gas prices to be a temporary problem. From Reuters:
The drop in the unemployment rate, which fell to 8.3 percent in January, is more rapid than would be expected given the economy's sluggish rate of growth, Bernanke said. "Continued improvement in the job market is likely to require stronger growth in final demand and production," he said.
Gas, oil update: Small uptick in crude prices after a big drop on Tuesday. Oil is trading in NY at around $107 a barrel. (AP) L.A. gas prices, meanwhile, keep creeping higher, with an average gallon of regular increasing almost 2 cents overnight, to $4.357, according to the Auto Club.
Lending picks up: Loan balances grew 1.8 percent in the fourth quarter, the biggest increase in four years. The late-year growth was driven by loans to commercial and industrial customers, according to the FDIC. (WSJ)
Stockton tries to avoid bankruptcy: The City Council voted to seek mediation with public employee unions and major bond creditors as part of an effort to restructure the city's finances. From the NYT:
Under a new law passed by the California Legislature last year, cities must hire a third-party mediator to help negotiate with unions and debtors for a period of 90 days before declaring Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. Nearby Vallejo, Calif., declared bankruptcy in 2008, and Stockton has hired the same bankruptcy lawyer who represented that city. City officials say that they hope mediation will allow them to avoid bankruptcy and indicated they may focus their push on reducing generous retiree health benefits. The city could also default on $2 million of debt payments this year.
James Murdoch out of UK newspaper business: Rupert's son has resigned as executive chairman of the News Corp. unit that owns several British dailies, but he will remain deputy chief operating officer of News Corp. itself. From the NYT:
Earlier this month, Rupert Murdoch flew to London to restore morale at his battered British outpost. When he visited the newsroom of The Sun, his top-selling daily tabloid, Mr. Murdoch was accompanied by his son Lachlan, rather than by James, as he ordered an end to the suspension of reporters and editors caught up in the hacking scandal. He also unveiled plans for a new Sunday edition of The Sun, which made its first appearance four days ago. The presence of Lachlan suggested to media analysts that James -- who had been the heir apparent and overall head of British newspaper operations until the phone hacking scandal that erupted last summer -- may have ceded his place to his older brother.
Shakeup at Fisker: The Anaheim-based maker of plug-in hybrids has named Tom LaSorda as chief executive, replacing company co-founder Henrik Fisker. The start-up has laid off workers and run into some production problems. (LAT)
Plug pulled on missile defense system: Developed largely in Socal, the program involved a 747 jumbo jet equipped with an advanced tracking system and a massive laser gun on its nose. From the LAT:
The program began in 1996 and was a major economic boost for Southern California, where much of the high-tech system was developed and tested. At its peak, the program employed hundreds of physicists, chemists, computer scientists, aerodynamicists and engineers across the Southland. But after years of development and testing, funding dried up, and the Air Force has confirmed that the 747 took off from a runway at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert for the last time.
New service from Washington Reagan: American Airlines will be flying nonstop to LAX, beginning in June. The FAA has lifted restrictions to fly from Reagan to the west coast. (press release)