Wednesday morning headlines

Stocks bouncing around: Up, down and sideways about the prospects of a fiscal cliff breakthrough. Dow is up about 20 points.

Senators want gas price probe: You could have seen this coming: A group that includes California's Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein wants the feds to find out whether market manipulation by West Coast oil refiners contributed to a price spike that sent prices soaring. (Reuters)

Real problem behind gas spikes: California has a limited number of refineries and no immediate access to outside supplies if something goes wrong. From LAT columnist Mike Hiltzik:

The chief drawback of the occasional spike, even one as severe as October's, may be that it diverts attention from a more fundamental problem with the California gasoline market -- it's in the hands of a shrinking cadre of refinery owners, which may be about to shrink further if federal regulators approve a proposed acquisition of BP's Carson refinery by Tesoro Refining and Marketing. The deal would give Tesoro 27% control of California gasoline production capacity, making it the state's largest refiner. Tesoro has said it would divest its small Wilmington refinery, if antitrust regulators insist. That would still leave it with more than 21% of the state's refinery capacity.

UCLA hospital gets "F" grade: A watchdog group dings Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center on measures to prevent medical errors, patient infections and deaths. From the LAT:

Officials at UCLA disputed the failing grade and they said one patient death in 2010 unfairly lowered its grade from a C to an F under Leapfrog's methodology. "UCLA is not an F hospital in quality and safety," said Tom Rosenthal, chief medical officer at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. "It is not a fair scoring system and it does a disservice to the public."

Anthem plans rate hike: The increase would average 18 percent for more than 630,000 individual policyholders. From the LAT:

Some Anthem customers may see rates rise as much as 25% in February under the company's proposal at a time when medical inflation is running at historic lows nationwide. The increases are among several others proposed by California insurers, including Aetna Inc. and Health Net Inc. California insurance regulators will take the next month to review whether these rate increases are warranted, but state officials don't have the authority to reject them for being unreasonable.

Amazon plans third distribution center: The new location in the city of Tracy could mean about 1,000 new jobs and expedited service for California shoppers. (LAT)

Picket line at Port of L.A.: Clerical workers from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union walked off their jobs over the delays in working out a new contract. The job action is only occurring at the APM Terminal, known as Pier 400. (Daily Breeze)

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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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