Stocks rebounding: A strong retail sales report is helping. Dow is up 70 points.
Good month for shoppers: March retail sales rose 0.8 percent, with consumers spending more on building materials, autos, electronics, furniture and clothing. From AP:
Joshua Shapiro, an economist at MFR Inc., said that retail sales have "picked up considerably" in the first quarter, after a weak December gain. Sales have been bolstered by greater hiring, but also unseasonably warm weather, which has added to clothing and home supply sales. Shapiro cautioned that the warmer weather may have moved up some sales, which could lead to weaker spending in April and May.
Tough quarter for Mattel: The El Segundo toymaker reported a 53 percent drop in net income for the January-March period. Sales of Barbie and Hot Wheels were down, especially in North America. (AP)
Gas update: The price drops continue - an average gallon of regular in the L.A. area is $4.242, according to the Auto Club, down about a nickel from a week ago and about 15 cents from a month ago.
Decent results at Citigroup: Lower expenses and more lending are behind a better-than-expected first quarter. (Reuters)
L.A.'s budget mess: Lots of reasons behind the chronic shortfall, but LAT columnist Jim Newton identifies a key problem of the city's own making.
One way out of the current morass would be to persuade city workers to give up the raises promised them in 2007. Employees might well be willing to do so to save their jobs. The trouble is that only general fund employees are under any threat of layoffs because the special fund workers are paid for by the money their operations generate -- sanitation fees, for example. Because fees collected by the city for specific services must be used to pay for those services, the city can't simply grab sanitation fees and put them in the general fund. And because the bulk of city employees now work in such "safe" jobs, it's hard to imagine that the city can persuade a majority of its workers to give up their raises. As Miguel Santana, the city's chief administrative officer, ruefully acknowledged last week, "The politics don't add up."
Top lawyers charging more: Hourly rates averaged $873 an hour last year, up almost 5 percent from 2010, according to a new report. The nation's lowest-billing partners were only charging $204, an average increase of 1.3 percent. From the WSJ:
The slow growth at the low end shows that clients who pushed back on legal bills during the economic downturn are continuing to hold the line, especially on routine matters, including bulk contract work or compiling documents for patent claims. And that disparity between who can raise prices--and who can't--spotlights a growing segmentation in the $100 billion corporate legal market. At the very highest end, alternative fee structures can push effective billing rates to several thousand dollars an hour.
Best Buy closing three local stores: Locations in Westwood, Ontario, and Tustin are among the 50 being shuttered by the electronics chain as part of a cost-cutting effort. (LAT)
"Hunger" tops "Stooges": Moe, Larry and Curly scored $17.1 million in their opening weekend, but it wasn't enough to beat the hugely successful "Hunger Games," which was good for $21.5 million in its fourth weekend. (THR)
California tax delinquents: Notable names include Pam Anderson, "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis, and CNET co-founder Halsey Minor. From the LAT:
A new California law that took effect Jan. 1 requires income tax authorities twice a year to update and publish the names and amounts owed by the 500 largest income-tax delinquents. In all, the 500 owe the state about $233 million. The entire list is available on the Internet at http://www.ftb.ca.gov.
Brockman Building out of foreclosure: Denver developer Simpson Housing bought the landmark building from Bank of America. The plan is to turn the 7th Street property into luxury apartments. From the LAT:
The Brockman Building earned a footnote in Hollywood lore nearly a century ago when silent film actor and director Harold Lloyd reportedly witnessed "human fly" Bill Struther climb the exterior of the 12-story tower as a stunt. Lloyd was inspired to make his famous 1923 romantic comedy "Safety Last," which includes a harrowing building-climbing scene that climaxes with Lloyd apparently hanging from the hands of a clock high above Los Angeles' Broadway street.