Thursday morning headlines

Romney rally?: Probably not, but investors might be reconsidering future strategies in light of the president's dismal performance. Dow is up 80 points.

Gas prices taking off: Another overnight jump, largely the result of refinery problems in California. An average gallon of regular is $4.347, according to the Auto Club, up almost a dime from Wednesday and 20 cents from last week.

Jobless claims inch higher: Weekly filings for unemployment benefits were up 4,000 to 367,000. That would indicate only modest hiring. (AP)

Spending slows in September: Limited and Costco beat Wall Street estimates, while Target and Macy's missed estimates. From Reuters:

Sales at stores open at least a year at 17 chains tracked by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S rose 3.6 percent, matching analysts' expectations. In September 2011, such sales rose 6.4 percent. Results in the department store category were weaker than anticipated, while same-store sales at apparel chains came in ahead of analysts' expectations.

Another record low for mortgages: Rates on a 30-year fixed fell to 3.36 percent, down from last week's 3.40 percent. (AP)

Weak outlook for HP: And it's coming from CEO Meg Whitman, who told Wall Street analysts to expect lower profits in 2013. HP stock fell sharply. From the NYT:

The drubbing was probably what Ms. Whitman, the former chief of eBay, had in mind. Executives involved in her presentation, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said she wanted to get as much bad news as possible out at once, so the company could focus on rebuilding rather than having to explain one disappointing quarter after another.

Facebook tops 1 billion users: The milestone was long anticipated, but impressive nonetheless - despite the dreadful stock price ($21.76 at last check). (Bloomberg)

MGM co-CEO makes surprise exit: Roger Birnbaum signs a production deal with the studio, and co-CEO Gary Barber becomes the sole chief executive. From the LAT:

Since the two took the reins of MGM in 2010 after it emerged from bankruptcy, the studio has formed numerous distribution and co-financing deals with studios around town including one with Sony Pictures Entertainment that includes shared rights for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," "21 Jump Street" and the upcoming James Bond film "Skyfall." The duo also solidified the studio's investment in "The Hobbit" trilogy with Warner Bros. and its subsidiary New Line Cinema.

Questionable city billing?: The City Controller's office is reviewing complaints from customers at L.A.'s Department of Building and Safety who say they were overcharged. Others said they were undercharged. (Daily News)

More by Mark Lacter:
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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*
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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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