Newsletter: California Inc.: Eclipse day is here, but be careful of some safety glasses

A solar eclipse will be visible across a wide swath of the U.S. on Aug. 21. Here’s how to watch it safely.

Welcome to California Inc., the weekly newsletter of the L.A. Times Business Section.

I’m Business columnist David Lazarus, and here’s a rundown of upcoming stories this week and the highlights of last week.

Stocks took a pounding last week as the political turbulence in Washington and terror attacks in Spain caught up with the market. But closer to home employers statewide increased their payrolls by 82,600 jobs in July. Sectors that saw the most employment gains include government, which added 18,800 jobs; educational and health services, which saw an increase of 18,600; and leisure and hospitality, which was up 15,200 jobs.



Dark day: The long-awaited solar eclipse sweeps across America on Monday. Sun watchers have flooded into towns that fall in the narrow geographic band where the eclipse will be total. In Los Angeles, the eclipse peaks at 10:21 a.m. when 62% of the sun will be obscured. Got eclipse glasses? Use caution. Amazon stopped sales of glasses from third-party sellers who couldn’t prove the items met safety standards.

Housing bills: California lawmakers return from their summer recess on Monday facing a frantic four weeks to pass bills before they adjourn for the year. Two measures under consideration aim to increase funding for low-income housing projects. Senate Bill 2 would add a $75 fee on mortgage refinancings and most other real estate transactions. SB3 would place a $3-billion bond on the 2018 statewide ballot to help build low-income projects.

Computer confab: Technology consulting firm Gartner hosts its annual Catalyst conference at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, running Monday through Thursday. The event covers emerging hardware and software technologies, with talks on machine learning, artificial intelligence, online marketing and mobile app development. About 1,800 people are expected to attend.

Auto pollution: On Monday, the state Senate Appropriations Committee will consider a bill to spend $3 billion over seven years to subsidize consumers’ purchases of low-emission vehicles. Assemblyman Phil Ting, author of Assembly Bill 1184, says he is seeking dependable and consistent funding for zero-emission vehicle rebates. But opponents have slammed the bill for leaving basic questions unanswered, including the biggest one: Where would the money come from?


Talking Tahoe: On Tuesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein will host the annual Lake Tahoe Summit, a gathering of federal, state and local leaders aimed at addressing environmental protection of the lake that straddles the California and Nevada border. The event, at the Tallac historical site in South Lake Tahoe, is open to the public.The annual gathering began in 1997 when President Clinton held a “Save Lake Tahoe” summit and doubled federal aid to the region.


Monday’s Business section looks at how much influence stock indexes can have over corporate practices. The company that produces the S&P 500 announced that it would exclude the parent of Snapchat from its benchmark stock market index. It was seen as an overdue response to a disturbing trend: Founders, when they take a company public, do whatever they can to maintain control of their firms.


Here are some of the other stories that ran in the Times Business section in recent days that we’re continuing to follow:

CEO revolt: James Murdoch, chief executive of Fox News’ parent company, on Thursday became the latest corporate leader to blast President Trump over his response to the recent racially charged attack in Charlottesville, Va. Earlier last week, so many executives had resigned from Trump’s economic advisory and manufacturing councils, including the heads of General Electric Co., Intel Corp. and Campbell Soup Co., that the president announced on Twitter he was disbanding the panels.

Cut off: Apple, Cloudflare and PayPal have joined the parade of companies cutting off services to white nationalists after an anti-racist counter-protester was killed and others were injured in Charlottesville. In statements circulated among employees and published online, the companies condemned hate groups. Corporations are scrambling to erase any perception that they condone white supremacists, at least partly motivated by fear of tarnishing their brands.

Bank shake-up: Stephen Sanger, the chairman of Wells Fargo & Co., will step down from the board of the embattled bank effective Jan. 1 and will be replaced by Elizabeth A. “Betsy” Duke, the current bank vice chairwoman and former Federal Reserve official. Two other long-serving directors, Cynthia H. Milligan and Susan G. Swenson, also will retire at the end of this year. They’re the latest casualties in the bank’s long-running scandal over sham accounts.


Mixed-use U: USC Village, the largest development in the school’s history, officially opened. The university is striving to house more students on campus and broaden its connection to its South Los Angeles neighborhood. The $700-million project spans 15 acres, has beds for 2,500 undergraduates and features a Trader Joe’s, Target, Starbucks and other stores and restaurants that are open to the public.

In the clouds: A skyscraper that would be the tallest residential building in California has been proposed for downtown Los Angeles as the neighborhood’s housing boom rolls on. Crescent Heights, a Miami-based developer, submitted a proposal to the city planning department to build a 70-story apartment building that would stand out in size and design amid the rapidly growing South Park district east of Staples Center.


And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:

Got clean water? A surge in the number of dairy farms in New Zealand is endangering the water in the country, reports the Wall Street Journal. “Seven out of 10 of New Zealand’s monitored rivers — mostly in lowland areas — are now potentially unsafe for swimmers, according to a government report.” Rising milk prices and increased demand from Asia have prompted many New Zealand farmers to switch from sheep to dairy cows in recent years.

Magic number: Some Americans are obsessed with getting the highest credit score possible, reports Bloomberg. They monitor their credit score relentlessly, plotting careful moves in seeking and using credit, all to reach the perfect score — 850. “Members of the 850 Club can be broken into two groups. There are the super-knowledgeable tacticians trying to crack scoring algorithms, and the naturally prudent. Some are prepping for a loan. Others are just credit-score hobbyists.”

You Tube marketing: Video game makers are finding that winning over influential YouTube episode creators can be the key to pumping up sales, reports the New York Times. “Big-budget video game studios are courting popular YouTubers by sending them early review copies of games or paying them to make positive videos, and the impact can be even more significant for independent games with little money to spend on marketing.”

Cheaper inland: Want to see your money go further? Consider moving to Tennessee. In a ranking of the best and worst cities to live on a $100,000 salary, Fortune found three cities in Tennessee were least expensive. In Johnson City, Tenn., just 62% of your income would go to basic expenses. Most expensive cities were on the coasts, led by Bridgeport, Conn., where it would take 102% of your income to pay basic expenses, followed by San Jose (99%) and San Francisco (96%).


NAFTA risks: President Trump must evade a “landmine” when he goes to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, says Forbes. “In states Trump won, there are significant agricultural interests that will be less than enthused about changes to NAFTA that could upset lucrative and well-established export markets.” If Trump complains about low-priced food and oil coming in from Mexico and Canada, those countries could threaten to dial down their imports of U.S. grain and meat.


The New Yorker flexes its video muscle with business writer Adam Davidson following the money trail in President Trump’s past deals, ending up, not shockingly, in the Kremlin.

For the latest money news, go to Mad props to Scott J. Wilson for helping put this thing together.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the Business section.

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