Monday morning headlines

Stocks making gains: Trading continues to be on the soft side, but the Dow is up 60 points.

Gas prices inching down: No big drops so far - the average price of regular in the L.A. area is $4.648, according to the Auto Club, down around a nickel from its all-time high on Oct. 9.

Jump in retail sales: Another bullish sign for the economy - September's 1.1 percent increase was driven by auto sales and the release of the iPhone5, though most categories saw gains. (AP)

Weak but improving growth: The housing market will continue to help, according a quarterly survey by the National Association for Business Economists. However, the economy is expected to struggle through next year, with gross domestic product of just 1.9 percent. (AP)

Family debt loads decline: The amount of home mortgages, credit card debt, and most other consumer liabilities except student loans stands on par with 2006 or earlier, according to Moody's Analytics. From the LAT:

A massive number of foreclosures and a new frugality on the part of many households have helped reduce liabilities. Now the long process of shedding debt seems about over, and that alone should benefit the economy. With less debt weighing them down, consumers are feeling more upbeat today than they have in five years, according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan survey of consumers this month. And that could translate into a little more spending and risk-taking.

UCLA economist shares Nobel: Lloyd Shapley, along with Harvard's Alvin Roth, were recognized for their work in matching theory and its practical applications in markets. From the LAT:

Roth and Shapley worked independently of one another. The academy said the combination of Shapley's basic theory and Roth's practical investigations "has generated a flourishing field of research and improved the performance of many markets." Shapley, 89, a professor emeritus at UCLA who has been at the university since 1981, used game theory to research different matching systems and answer how one method may systematically benefit one agent or another in markets.

Box office report: In its second weekend, Liam Neeson's "Taken 2" was in the top spot at $22.5 million, followed by Ben Affleck's political thriller "Argo," which opened at $20.1 million. Total weekend box office jumped 47 percent over the same weekend in 2011. (Entertainment Weekly)

New Variety owner eying different digs: Jay Penske says that rent for the current location at 5900 Wilshire Boulevard is too expensive, THR is reporting, citing sources. Current lease expire in 2014.

Penske Media's space at the 9800 S. La Cienega Blvd. tower, which is owned by Jamison Services Inc. and backs up to the San Diego Freeway, undoubtedly is less expensive than the Miracle Mile lease. According to data from real estate analytics company CoStar, asking rents at the property, which is 61 percent occupied, range from $1.30 to $1.50 per square foot per month -- a fraction of the Variety lease. The LAX-adjacent market in which the building is situated is known for having "the cheapest, lowest rents in the city," according to Safai, who is not involved in Penske Media's real estate dealings.

More by Mark Lacter:
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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
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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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