LA Biz Observed archive

Mark Lacter covered business, the economy and more here from 2006 until his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
The entire LA Biz Observed archive — more than 10,000 blog posts by Mark — remains online and available.
October 2013

Holiday shopping: On your marks, get set... spend!

holiday.jpg This over-hyped annual ritual involves inexperienced reporters cribbing the guesstimates of NY-based analysts about the prospects for Southern California merchants. Good luck sorting that out.

More deciphering of insurance cancellations

healthcare6.jpg Obama's misleading comments show either an appalling ignorance of his own plan or a willful distortion of the law's confusing facets. Either way, it's not great. However, it's not the whole story.

'Fasten your seatbelts' in song and dance (video)

virgin-atlantic-vid-grab.jpg Virgin America's preparations for catastrophe have never been so entertaining. Too bad the airline needs more than a floor show.

Clarifying those insurance cancellation notices

suzanne.jpg The policies typically provide scant coverage - frequently lacking maternity care or mental health benefits, for example. Dumping them was one of the ideas behind the Affordable Care Act - or as Suzanne Somers claims in a WSJ oped, the nation's march toward socialism.

Garcetti job picks reflect stable transition

santana.jpg New bosses, in politics or business, are often conflicted about who to keep. The obvious reflex is to select your own people, but many of these jobs require an institutional knowledge that can take months or even years to pick up.

Uproar over health care sites could be settling down

healthcare6.jpg Rescue crews are giving themselves until the end of next month to get the operation in mostly workable order. In today's media whirl, that's several lifetimes. Meanwhile, the California health care site seems to be working, more or less.

L.A.'s new financial website not quite useless... but almost

losangeles3.jpg Mayor Garcetti wants to open the process, but transparency is not so much the issue; it's context. Knowing that L.A. gets 28 percent of its revenue through property taxes is a useless data point unless we can find out why it's higher than previous years.

What to do with all that bad chicken?

fosterfarms.jpg If the salmonella contamination at Foster Farms tells consumers anything, it's that we're all pretty much on our own when it comes to food safety.

LAX's 17-hour-plus flight is history

singapore2.jpg No more non-stops between Los Angeles and Singapore, part of a cutback by Singapore Airlines on ultra long-range routes. Also gone is the Newark to Singapore run, which at nearly 19 hours (yikes!) had been the world's longest non-stop flight.
villaraigosa6.jpg Some might find the former mayor's advisory roles to be infuriating, but is it any different than an actor or athlete getting paid ungodly amounts to peddle somebody's golf clubs or soda pop?

Majority of Americans, Californians support legalizing pot

marijuana.jpg Gallup poll finds that 58 percent favor legalization and 39 percent oppose, the broadest approval since the pollster start asking the question in 1969 (only 12 percent backed legalization that year).

Another blah jobs report

jobless7.jpg Not horrible, not wonderful - September's numbers were a tad disappointing, with only 148,000 jobs added to the rolls. But the unemployment rate did drop to 7.2 percent from 7.3 percent the previous month.

The drip-drip-drip of health care malfunction

healthcare3.jpg It's safe to assume that would-be applicants to the Covered California program, as well as the other insurance exchanges, are simply giving up trying to enroll in a health plan. That's not political spin - it's the cold reality of what's been a disaster.

Don't believe guesstimates of shutdown-related losses*

shutdown4.jpg Southern California's economy is in pretty good shape, with most of the effects likely to be short term and marginal.

Why it's hard to gauge progress of health care programs

covered.jpg Covered California processed 94,500 applications as of Oct. 16, roughly half of the applications being reported from the 16 states (and the District of Columbia) that have their own insurance markets. But what does that mean?

Stability returns to housing market

septsales.jpg September home sales and prices are down a bit from the previous month, according to Dataquick, but that's not such a bad thing.

L.A.'s half-baked approach to quake readiness

downtown.jpg Everyone knows that older concrete buildings are especially vulnerable in an earthquake unless they're reinforced. The problem is that retrofitting can be very expensive. What to do?

Looks like debt, budget deal is taking shape - really

House Speaker John Boehner apparently has agreed to bring the Senate-crafted measure to a floor vote, which means that most all Democrats would join with enough Republicans to pass the thing and avert crisis.

House Republicans are victims of 'sunk cost fallacy'

defund.jpg Their efforts to de-fund the Affordable Care Act are not going to work, and yet they continue to push, making a bad situation even worse.

Nervous time in Washington*

capitol.jpg What we're seeing play out has nothing to do with policy. It's all about face-saving.

Home flipping by and for the favored few

flipping.jpg High-end home sales, which had been lagging in the early days of the housing recovery, are making up for lost time. Big-time investors like Colony Capital are getting interested.

How does Register's focus on subscribers square with reality?

register3.jpg Publisher Aaron Kushner insists that he doesn't care whether people read the Register in print or online - just so long as they're subscribers. What he refuses to accept is that the traditional subscription model is dying.

Stocks take off in hopes of Washington breakthrough

wallstreet.jpg Well, breakthrough is pushing it, but investors were determined to look at the bright side. The Dow finished up 323 points, to 15,126.

Why L.A. isn't being hit too hard by shutdown - for now

shutdown2.jpg This is not much of a government town, so the impact has involved inconvenience more than dislocation. But should the impasse drag out for several more weeks there's bound to be an economic cost.

Register parent buys Press-Enterprise

PE.jpg Here's the first big indication that Freedom Communications and its CEO, Aaron Kushner, have designs on the Southern California market that go beyond the flagship OC Register.

The Janet Yellen songbook

yellen.jpg Much will be made of her becoming the first woman Fed chairman, as it should, but the real story is what a great selection this is - a remarkable pivot from what would have been a terrible selection in Larry Summers.

Business tweet of the day

Katie Couric's show causing headaches for Disney

katie.jpg This is the month when TV stations will decide whether to renew the daytime talker after the summer of 2014, and the outlook is not good.

Another bad market day

wallstreet.jpg So much for Wall Street ho-humming the debt ceiling issue. The Dow fell 160 points, which means that the blue chip index has dropped around 1,000 points in the past three weeks.

L.A.'s film location shooting up again

filmprod.jpg Which means that the mayor, along with his new film czar, Tom Sherak, will have a hard time convincing state lawmakers that Hollywood needs additional giveaways.

More on the departure of L.A.'s port boss

knatz.jpg Most everybody told me that Knatz did not have a great relationship with the port tenants. The laundry list of gripes ranges from an often-difficult lease negotiation process with both large and small tenants to a limited focus on sales and marketing.

Job turnover is a good thing - except it's not happening much

churn.jpg The ongoing recovery has been marked by a lack of churn - that is fewer workers are quitting and fewer are being hired. Economists are paying attention.

Why is L.A.'s port boss stepping aside?

knatz.jpg Wish I knew. Here's another case where the embarrassing dearth of news coverage about the port leaves a big hole.
bizclimate.jpg Sure, the business tax can use an overhaul (once somebody figures it out) and it's still tough to get permits from the Department of Building and Safety. But overall the city of L.A. is quite accommodating - probably too much so.

Politics aside, health care website really does stink

healthcare5.jpg If it were only a matter of heavier-than-expected traffic, the problems would be easy to resolve. But the site is asked to accomplish many complicated functions.

How the White House views budget/default assault

boehner.jpg The rules and promises House Speaker John Boehner makes are not their problem, they've decided. They're not going to save him.

Banks prepare for freaked-out customers

banks.jpg There's no telling what might happen if the U.S. government is forced to default because a few dozen crazies in the House refuse to lift the debt ceiling. But risk-averse bankers are preparing for the worst.

L.A. economy getting better, warts and all

laecon2.jpg It might not seem that way in many parts of town, but payroll jobs grew 3.8 percent in 2012, which is the sharpest increase since 2005 and nearly double the national rate.

Markets show little reaction to government shutdown*

For what it's worth, conventional wisdom on Wall Street is that a deal will be hammered out before too much damage is done.