Monday morning headlines

Stocks slump: Most everything is getting hit this morning, presumably in response to the disappointing jobs report. It's also a convenient time to cash out on recent gains. Dow is down 155 points.

Big companies looking good: They're more productive, more profitable, and less burdened by debt, according to a WSJ analysis. Plus, they have mountains of cash.

Deep cost cutting during the downturn and caution during the recovery put the companies on firmer financial footing, helping them to outperform the rest of the economy and gather a greater share of the nation's income. The rebound is reflected in the stock market, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average at a four-year high. "U.S. companies became leaner, meaner and hungrier," said Sung Won Sohn, a former chief economist at Wells Fargo & Co.

Gas update: The price drop continues, with an average gallon of regular in the L.A. area at $4.288, according to the Auto Club, down about a nickel from a week ago and a dime from a month ago. Oil has fallen to about $102 a barrel.

AOL, Microsoft strike deal: The agreement will have AOL selling over 800 patents and licensing 300 more to Microsoft for $1.06 billion. From DealBook:

It is the latest big deal for patents, at a time when tech companies are amassing intellectual property rights as ammunition against competitors. Last year, Google purchased Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, largely for its patent portfolio. And scores of companies, including Apple, Samsung, Facebook and Yahoo, are clashing in courtrooms over claims to technology underpinning some of the basic functions of smartphones and social networks alike.

L.A. budget chief warns about deficit: Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana says the city faces a $222-million shortfall, even after reducing the workforce by 4,900 positions. He's calling for new layoffs, possible taxes, and the privatization of city services. (LAT)

Early poll on mayoral race: City Councilman Eric Garcetti, City Controller Wendy Greuel, and County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky (who has yet to announce) are at at the top, according to a survey by the Center for the Study of Los Angeles and reported by LAT columnist Jim Newton.

Where the poll is even more revealing is in its hints about where each candidate's base of support is likely to be. There, the results may be particularly encouraging for Garcetti and Greuel. Garcetti is the clear leader among the city's largest ethnic group (41% of Latinos back him), and Greuel leads among union households (26% support her), which turn out to vote in large numbers. Garcetti also appears best poised to pick up those voters who are most supportive of the current mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa. Of the Villaraigosa supporters who rate his performance an A or a B, more than 59% back Garcetti. That's interesting, because while Villaraigosa has worked reasonably well with Garcetti, there's no real love between them.

Executive pay edges higher: Overall compensation for the 100 top-paid CEOs rose just 2 percent in 2011 compared with a year earlier, but the numbers are still huge. From the NYT:

Analysts say the uptick in C.E.O. pay is a sign that corporations are returning to business as usual after the last recession. When the economy soured, executive pay fell sharply at many companies, though not as much as many ordinary Americans might have hoped. With the recovery in 2010, pay then skyrocketed. Now it's stabilizing, suggesting, perhaps, that corporate boards see more predictable economic times ahead.

"Hunger Games" still on top: The action adventure took in another $33.5 million in its third weekend, raising its domestic total to $302.8 million. (AP)

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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