Newsletter: California Inc.: Mnuchin comes to UCLA for chat on economic outlook


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.

With the Winter Olympics over, I for one will miss curling on CNBC every afternoon. I was also struck by this story on how difficult it is for Olympians to cash in on their success. As one sports marketer put it: “Two months from now, there’s no story about them. By April and May, no one is talking about the Olympics.”



Mnuchin in L.A.: U.S. Treasury Secretary (and former movie producer) Steven T. Mnuchin will be in Los Angeles on Monday, speaking at UCLA’s Korn Convocation Hall on a wide range of topics, including the economy and financial regulation. He’ll be interviewed by Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal.

Look, no hands: A symposium on the future of self-driving vehicles will be Monday through Wednesday at the San Mateo Marriott hotel. It boasts of bringing together “the biggest and brightest minds in the tech and automotive space to engage on the future of mobility as we know it.”

Home prices: Data firm CoreLogic on Tuesday will release Southern California home price and sales data for January. In December, prices set a record, suggesting a strengthening economy, but it’s put more homes out of reach for the typical buyer.

Powell speaks: On Tuesday, Jerome Powell will deliver his first extensive public comments on the economy and the volatile financial markets since taking over this month as Federal Reserve chairman. He will appear before the House Financial Services Committee and is likely to be asked about how tax cuts and stock market gyrations will impact the Fed’s interest rate policy.

Let’s go shopping: The latest snapshot of consumer sentiment will be released Friday by the University of Michigan’s Consumer Survey Center. The last such pulse reading, earlier this month, found that the consumer-sentiment index had risen to 99.9, the second-highest level in 14 years.



Monday’s Business section digs into the cobalt market. An essential ingredient in lithium-ion batteries that power millions of smartphones as well as plug-in electric cars, cobalt is in heavy demand. But just as the silverish-gray metal has established itself as a critical element in the growth of the market in electric vehicles, cobalt also has become a source of serious ethical and economic concerns.


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

Choppy waters: The stock market finally calmed down a bit, rallying on Friday to close out the week with modest gains following several days of choppy trading. But with huge looming deficits and the Fed determined to raise interest rates to stem inflation, don’t be surprised if volatility becomes a constant in the months ahead.

Shooting response: Delta Air Lines and United Airlines became the latest companies to cut their ties with the National Rifle Assn. following the deadly mass shooting at a Florida high school earlier this month. The airlines are ending discounted fares offered to NRA members to attend their annual meetings, and both have asked the gun rights group to remove any references to their companies from the NRA website.


Hollywood exile: Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is facing huge legal costs, criminal investigations and the loss of income from his former company. But that hasn’t stopped the Oscar-winning producer, who has been temporarily residing in Arizona, from living in luxury digs, dining in posh restaurants and receiving expensive addiction treatment at a clinic that caters to the A-list.

Breaking stereotypes: The blockbuster Marvel superhero movie “Black Panther” has become a juggernaut, defying movie-business assumptions and grossing a jaw-dropping $704 million in worldwide ticket sales as of this weekend.. The Walt Disney Co. release depicts Africa in a positive light and is showing that films with largely black casts can succeed at the global box office.

In a snap: It took just a single tweet, but when reality television star Kylie Jenner said she thought Snapchat’s new design was “sad,” the stock of parent Snap Inc. dropped more than 6%. The design is supposed to make the video-messaging app more approachable, but it has faced a backlash. The company, which saw its stock surge 50% earlier in the month on a positive earnings report, has brushed off the criticism.


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

Black unemployment: A reality check from the New York Times on reports that black unemployment is at an all-time low. “Black joblessness was still roughly twice the rate for whites. Even at the low of 6.8% recorded in December — it climbed back to 7.7% in January — the unemployment level for black Americans would qualify as a near crisis for whites.”

Downwardly mobile: A startling look at life without retirement savings from the Atlantic. “This will be the first time that we have a lot of people who find themselves downwardly mobile as they grow older,” says the executive director of the National Institute on Retirement Security. “They’re going to go from being near poor to poor.”


The price of cool: Wool sneakers are now hugely popular among people much cooler than me. But, as the Wall Street Journal reports, “demand has helped drive up merino wool prices at a time when the sheep population in Australia and New Zealand, the world’s largest wool exporters, is near a 100-year low.”

Can’t buy me love: Fast Company looks at a study of how much money people need to be happy. “If it’s a matter of one’s day-to-day feelings of happiness — as opposed to broad satisfaction with your life — then just $60,000 to $75,000 may be sufficient.” (I know my day-to-day happiness would be enhanced with a good deal more.)


One more thought on the Winter Games: If the quad is now a staple of figure skating, how long until we see the quint? This video from Wired looks at the science behind the quint, and how it’s nearly impossible to spin five times in the air before succumbing to gravity.

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

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