Thursday morning headlines

Stocks back up: Small rebound in early trading after two days of fairly big losses. Dow is up 40 points.

Gas price update: Another tiny overnight drop, with an average price of regular in the L.A. area falling half a penny, to $4.696, according to the Auto Club

Huge drop in jobless claims:. Weekly filings for unemployment benefits tumbled by 30,000, to 339,000 - the lowest level in more than four years. But the number is being called into question because one large state didn't report. Huh? (WSJ)

Big drop in foreclosures: California filings in September fell to the lowest level since December 2006, according to RealtyTrac. (press release)

Sprint Nextel about to be sold?: Japanese mobile carrier Softbank Corp. is in advanced talks to acquire the U.S. telecom company in a deal that could exceed $13 billion, reports the WSJ.

An acquisition of Sprint deal would mark a massive gamble by Softbank, the country's third-largest carrier by subscribers, to expand its business outside of Japan. Softbank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son has made big bets in the past, including acquiring the Japanese arm of Vodafone Group VOD.LN +0.31% PLC in 2006. It paid for the deal through a leveraged buyout, which vaulted the company in the mobile-phone business.

PC sales taking a tumble: Shipments in the U.S. dropped by more than 8 percent in the third quarter compared with a year earlier, according to two reports, with a third expecting the market to contract this year for the first time since 2001. From the WSJ:

Market watchers had expected some PC buyers to put off purchases until the launch of Microsoft's new operating system. But the severity of the slowdown in the third quarter--ordinarily a better one for PC sales because of back-to-school purchases and other factors--came as a surprise. Now the question is whether Microsoft's forthcoming Windows 8 and hardware built for it will be enough to reignite PC sales. PC makers have already built new models, including fancy desktops with touch screens and laptops that convert into tablets, to coincide with the launch.

SBA lending bounces back: Businesses in L.A., Venura, and Santa Barbara counties took out $1.5 billion worth of loans last year that were guaranteed by the Small Business Administration - a figure that was described as robust. (LAT)

Walmart starts Chinatown hiring: The retail giant plans to open one of its Neighborhood Markets early next year, part of a push into urban areas. A total of 65 people are expected to be brought on. Labor groups have been fighting to keep Walmart out. (LAT)

Variety paywall coming down: New owner Jay Penske also told staffers that the print edition will stay, The Wrap reported, citing a source. Penske Media is buying Variety for $25 million.

USC development plan approved by Council panel: The long-gestating $1-billion proposal would involve multi-use retail and student housing in the University Village area. Now it goes to the full council. From the LAT:

The vote came after the university agreed to pay $20 million in "community benefits" that will be used to maintain affordable housing in the surrounding area, officials said. USC initially earmarked $2 million for housing but agreed to the higher figure in recent weeks after intense negotiations that included the area's council representatives, Jan Perry and Bernard C. Parks, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

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?
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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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