Homes are staying on the market longer in Southern California this spring. Here, prospective buyers tour a house in Highland Park.

Homes selling slower in Southern California. A sign of stability?

In another sign that the hot Southland housing market is throttling down, homes here are staying on the market longer lately.

The share of houses that have been listed for sale for at least two months climbed in the Los Angeles, Orange County, Inland Empire and Ventura regions of Southern California compared with a year ago, according to an analysis by real estate website Trulia.

Thanks to perennially tight supply, Southern California housing markets are still pretty “fast” by historic standards, notes Trulia chief economist Jed Kolko. More than half of all homes in Los Angeles and Orange Counties sold in less than two months -- among the 10 highest rates in the country.

But compared with last year, when prices were significantly lower and the supply of homes for sale was even tighter, the market has slowed a bit. The share of homes on the market for two months in Los Angeles climbed to 44% from 40 a year ago, to 45% from 38% in Orange County and to 53% from 49% in...

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TSA's PreCheck program enables fliers who voluntarily offer background information access to a faster screening line.

Only half of Americans say TSA screening makes flying safer

Americans are split on whether airport screening lines make air travel safer.

But at the same time, a majority of American adults worry that faster screening lines for travelers who submit background information might jeopardize airline safety.

The latest measure of the public's attitute on airport security came from a poll of 2,234 adults in the U.S. by the Harris Poll.

It comes only days after a teenage boy slipped undetected onto a Maui-bound jet at Mineta San Jose International Airport.

Half of those who took the poll said the security screening procedures by the Transportation Security Administration make air travel safer. That rate rises to 57% among those who have taken more than five trips in the last year, according to the poll.

Best airlines, worst airlines: JetBlue tops survey as scores slide

But Americans have mixed opinions about TSA's PreCheck program, which enables travelers who submit background information to the government to go through special screening lines without...

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McDonald's gives Ronald McDonald a makeover.

Ronald McDonald gets a makeover, loses jumpsuit, takes on Twitter

Same clown, new clothes: Is that the main takeaway of McDonald’s newest makeover of its brand ambassador Ronald McDonald?

On Wednesday, the Oak Brook, Ill., fast-food giant unveiled a new look for the redheaded clown.

Gone are the lumpy yellow jumpsuit and Where’s Waldo-esque sleeves. In its place is something a Weasley twin might wear -- mustard cargo pants and a red-and-white striped rugby shirt. For “special occasions,” there’s a bowtie and a red blazer festooned with golden arches and Ron’s signature.

He still wears gloves. He still clops around in giant red shoes. His substantial hair is still blazingly loud. It might be a bit sleeker, though.

Is he still creepy? Just ask yourself if you’d let him date your daughter.

But if clothes make the man, this one at least has some showbiz pedigree. The character’s new duds were designed by Ann Hould-Ward, who has been nominated for two Tonys and won a third for dreaming up the costumes for...

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A woman who sued the TSA over carrying breast milk onto a plane has won a settlement.

Woman who sued TSA over breast milk wins settlement

A South Bay woman who sued the Transportation Security Administration over the way agents treated her for trying to bring breast milk on a plane said she won a settlement.

The woman, Stacey Armato, said the TSA agreed to pay her $75,000 to settle the suit, as well as retraining all screeners to better treat travelers carrying breast milk.

"That's a big deal," she said in an interview. "I expect a lot of changes."

TSA officials declined to comment, saying the settlement has not been finalized and the agency still has 30 days to request a dismissal.

The suit is based on two incidents that happened in early 2010 when Armato tried to bring containers of breast milk on flights from Phoenix to Los Angeles. She is an attorney who flew regularly between the two cities.

She said she was harassed in the first incident when she asked that TSA agents not put the milk through an X-ray scanner. During the second incident, she produced a copy of the TSA rules to show screeners that the milk should...

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Service Employees International Union members and supporters demonstrate against  wage theft by employers in a downtown Sacramento office building housing the California Chamber of Commerce.

Union demands passage of wage-theft bill

SACRAMENTO -- Nearly 100 chanting and placard-waving union members marched to a downtown Sacramento office tower in a staged and futile attempt to serve a $240 million bill on the California Chamber of Commerce.

The "invoice," union officials said, represented the amount of unpaid wages awarded by the state labor commissioner's office to workers that went uncollected from 2008 to 2011.

The Service Employees International Union is sponsoring a bill aimed at preventing so-called wage theft. It's scheduled for a first hearing and vote Wednesday in the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment. The bill, AB 2415 by Assemblyman Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley), would allow an employee under some circumstances to record and enforce a lien on an employer's real and personal property for unpaid wages.

"Under current law, even when employees can prove that their employer denied them compensation for their work, frequently they do not receive their wages," Stone told a boisterous crowd of purple-...

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Steven Sugarman, chief executive of Banc of California, left, with former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, an advisor to the bank.

Banc of California gets 20 Popular Community branches, Latino presence

Banc of California in Irvine is acquiring Popular Community Bank's 20 Southern California offices, part of a deal in which Popular Inc., Puerto Rico's largest bank, is shedding 41 mainland U.S. branches.

The companies said Wednesday that Banc of California would pay $5.4 million for the local franchise, more than doubling its current network of 18 branches.

The deal includes $1.1 billion in deposits and $1.1 billion in loans from eastern and southern Los Angeles County and northern Orange County. Layoffs are expected to be minimal because the branch networks don't overlap, said Banc of California Chief Executive Steven Sugarman.

GRAPHIC: Southern California's housing recovery

Banc of California is one of several large community banks that are rapidly expanding in the Southland with a focus on small businesses, but with a twist -- the deal will make it a presence in areas with large Latino communities where Popular operated.

The Irvine bank announced in July that it had hired former Los...

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IRS workers got $1.1 million in bonuses despite owing back taxes

WASHINGTON -- The IRS paid a total of about $1.1 million in bonuses over about two years to more than 1,100 employees who had been disciplined for failing to pay their own taxes, according to an inspector general's report.

Those employees also received awards of more than 10,000 hours of extra time off and 69 faster-than-normal pay grade increases. They were among more than 2,800 IRS employees during that period who got performance awards within one year of disciplinary action, such as suspensions or written reprimands, the report found.

This is bad news for the Internal Revenue Service's image, "which already has taken some very serious hits over the past couple of years,” said Pete Sepp, executive vice president of National Taxpayers Union.

PHOTOS: 10 most expensive cities in the world

The Treasury's inspector general for tax administration noted that the performance awards did not violate the law.

But he said that “providing awards to employees who have been disciplined...

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Bill Ackman

Allergan adopts 'poison pill' defense in Valeant takeover bid

Allergan Inc., the Irvine company that makes Botox, has adopted a "poison pill" defense that could make it more difficult for Canadian company Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. and activist investor Bill Ackman to force through a takeover bid.

The company's "stockholder rights plan" would allow existing shareholders to buy Allergan stock at a steep discount if any single investor acquires more than 10% of its shares.

The move prevents Ackman, who disclosed earlier this week that he had acquired 9.7% of Allergan's shares, from significantly increasing his holding.

Allergan, which announced the decision late Tuesday, said the program would be in place for one year.

Valeant, based in Laval, Quebec, and Ackman, chief executive of Pershing Square Capital Management, offered $46 billion in cash and stock for Allergan on Tuesday. They said combining the two companies would "create an unrivaled platform for growth and value creation in healthcare.”

The companies had combined...

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Boeing's profits are up this quarter as the Chicago-based aerospace company increases commercial jetliner production.

Boeing boosts profit on strong jet sales

Boosted by strong sales in its first financial quarter, Boeing Co. beat analysts’ estimates largely due to an increased production rate of commercial jetliners.

The Chicago aerospace giant reported a profit of $965 million, or $1.28 a share. That’s down 12.7% from last year’s first-quarter profit of $1.11 billion, or $1.44 a share.

Boeing attributed the fall to a $330-million write-off related to changes in its pension plans and a one-time tax credit in 2013.

The company's core earnings -- excluding retirement costs and the write-off -- rose to $1.76 per share, up from $1.73 during the same period a year ago. Analysts had expected core profit of $1.56 per share.

Investors bought shares on the news and in midday trading the stock was up $2.61, or 2%, at $130.16.

In the three months ended March 31, Boeing reported first-quarter revenue increased 8% to $20.5 billion.

It is speeding production lines to reduce its record backlog. The company delivered 161 jets in the...

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French economist Thomas Picketty's book "Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century" has topped Amazon's best-seller list.

Thomas Piketty's income inequality tome tops Amazon bestseller lists, outsells romances

Move over, "Fifty Shades of Grey." Instead of romance, a book by French economist Thomas Piketty on income inequality and capitalism is the No. 1 best-selling book on Amazon.com.

Piketty's "Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century" is generating so much interest among economists and policy makers that it's temporarily out of stock on Amazon.

PHOTOS: The 10 richest people in the world

At nearly 700 pages, it's not a book for beach reading by casual readers -- unless a mix of dense economic data and history is your thing. 

Piketty examined decades of historical data from 20 countries to compare income inequality over time and concluded that the U.S. economy has seen the wealth of the 1% grow to dizzying new heights. Wealth isn't trickling down as some argue, Piketty said. Moreover, he warns that rising inequality will undermine democracy and generate discontent. 

Though income inequality is a hot-button issue, it's not often an economics book tops a best-seller list. 

"It's un......

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Obamacare pushes health insurance costs up: Where to take your gripes

Kathleen says the cost of her health insurance has soared. She wants to know why -- and who she can complain to.

Kathleen isn't alone. A lot of people have seen their health-insurance premiums rise in recent months, and there's a reason for this.

Obamacare.

ASK LAZ: Smart answers to consumer questions

That's not to say all such rate hikes are unjustified. In most cases, the costs are rising because the quality of the coverage is improving.

The Affordable Care Act requires that all health insurance meets certain standards, and some plans are going up in cost for the simple reason that they're complying with the law.

For more, plus who's taking complaints about such things, check out today's Ask Laz video.

If you have a consumer question, email me at asklaz@latimes.com or contact me via Twitter @Davidlaz.

 

 

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Google is teaming with SunPower to lease solar panels to homeowners.

Google, SunPower investing in leasing solar panels to homeowners

Google Inc. is partnering with solar panel maker SunPower Corp. to invest up to $250 million in leasing solar systems to homeowners.

The Mountain View technology giant is contributing up to $100 million, and San Jose-based SunPower will invest $150 million, Google said in a blog post. The goal is to make "it easier for thousands of households across the U.S. to go solar."

"Using the fund ... we buy the solar panel systems," Google said. "Then we lease them to homeowners at a cost that's typically lower than their normal electricity bill."

Google's plans come at a time when new financing methods are driving a boom in the residential solar market. More homeowners now lease panels from solar companies than buy them outright.

PHOTOS: World's most expensive cities

Renewable energy companies are also finding creative ways to finance their businesses.

Solar developers who work with homeowners often have a difficult time convincing traditional banks to fund anything smaller than large-scale...

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