Monday morning headlines

Stocks moving up: Investors keep buying despite worries about the budget impasse in Washington. Dow is up about 80 points this morning. So what's going on? From the WSJ:

Many factors are driving stocks higher, including the Federal Reserve's announcement last week that it would extend its stimulus program and keep interest rates low as long as unemployment remains high. In addition, many investors remain confident that Democrats and Republicans will hash out a last-minute accord to avert the fiscal cliff, reasoning that the current rancor is more political theater and maneuvering than an actual failure to compromise.

Economists forecast modest growth: Next year will be okay, but not great, with a rebound in housing helping offset weakness in business investment. This assumes that Washington gets its act together. From AP:

Former IndyMac CEO settles: Michael Perry has agreed to pay $1 million as part of a deal with federal regulators involving allegations that he signed off on risky home loans. Perry says that he did nothing wrong. From the LAT:

Perry's lenders became the nation's largest issuer of so-called alt-A mortgages -- home loans mostly based on borrowers' simple statements of their income rather than on tax returns. As such, they were commonly called "liar loans." IndyMac's collapse was hastened when Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) released a letter in June 2008 to the FDIC and other regulators, saying that "IndyMac's financial deterioration poses significant risks to both taxpayers and borrowers."

"The Hobbit" breaks record: Peter Jackson's prequel to "The Lord of the Rings" grossed $84.8 million in its opening weekend - the biggest total for a December debut. From Entertainment Weekly:

The Hobbit's debut weekend was obviously strong, but it must be said that it finished at the low end of pre-release expectations, most of which had the film earning more than $100 million in its debut frame. The Hobbit, the first in a trilogy produced by New Line and MGM (with Warner Bros. distributing) for a reported $600 million, earned $37.5 million on Friday, yet it only managed an internal multiplier (that's weekend gross divided by Friday gross) of 2.25 -- a very low number that signifies front-loaded performance. Judging by The Hobbit's 25 percent plummet on Saturday, it appears that the Tolkien faithful rushed out for the film early in the weekend.

Holiday parties are back: More than 83 percent of companies nationwide have had or are planning one, according to a survey by Challenger, Gray & Christmas. From the OC Register:

"We've had days when we closed (bookings) because we reached capacity," said Mary Lallande, marketing director at Jay's in Garden Grove, the county's biggest caterer. She said that's a big change from the recession. In 2008, the year Wall Street melted down, companies not only didn't have parties, but cancelled the ones they had scheduled, she said. "This year the parties definitely are getting larger," Lallande said. "Several of the large company events actually doubled."

More by Mark Lacter:
American-US Air settlement with DOJ includes small tweak at LAX
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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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