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.
The retail sector is attracting renewed attention after Sears Holdings last week reported a loss of $508 million in its fiscal second quarter — its sixth loss over the last eight quarters. But Chief Executive Edward Lampert, whose hedge fund is looking at buying Sears’ Kenmore brand and a home-improvement unit, said he was encouraged by improvements in July and August.
I’d like to thank: The 70th Primetime Emmy Awards will be doled out Monday. The ceremony will be held in the Microsoft Theater in downtown L.A. and broadcast on NBC.
Housing starts: August housing starts will be released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday. Construction on new houses increased by less than 1% in July, reflecting a recent slowdown in building that’s probably tied to higher mortgage rates and labor shortages.
Jobless claims: Weekly jobless claims will be released by the Labor Department on Thursday. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 204,000 last week. Stats for the prior week were revised to show 2,000 more applications than previously reported.
Bad hombres: “The Sisters Brothers,” a highly anticipated new western, rides into town Friday with a dazzling cast that includes Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly, Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed. The trailer suggests a tonal bull’s-eye in hitting that sweet spot between comedy and drama.
Sky high: Saturday is the deadline for bids to acquire European pay-TV service Sky. Comcast and Walt Disney Co. both want to buy Sky. Fox is still in the game because it already owns 39% of the company. Sky has more than 20 million customers in five European countries.
Monday’s Business section delves into declining paychecks by looking at six industries that once paid a decent wage and now, well, don’t. A key reason: These gigs don’t require a college degree. The share of workers with only a high school education is rising in all six jobs and now constitutes the largest portion in all but one of them. Employers in turn have learned they can get away with paying less regardless of workers’ skills.
Here are some of the other stories that ran in the Times Business section in recent days that we’re continuing to follow:
Trade war: President Trump has decided to impose tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, one of the most severe economic restrictions ever imposed by a U.S. president. The penalties, expected to come within days, could drive up the cost of a variety of products before the holiday shopping season, though it's unclear how much.
CBS turmoil: Jeff Fager, the executive producer of “60 Minutes” was fired after sending a harsh text to a CBS News correspondent working on a story about allegations of inappropriate conduct by him while at the news magazine. His firing came just days after network chief Les Moonves was forced out after a lengthy sexual harassment inquiry.
Vaping crackdown: Citing an epidemic of e-cigarette use among teenagers, the Food and Drug Administration is requiring manufacturers to develop detailed plans for curbing sales to minors. The action could be bad news for Juul, a privately held San Francisco company that has sprinted out ahead of Big Tobacco companies in the rapidly growing market.
Payday bank: U.S. Bank says it will offer nearly instant small loans to its customers, becoming the first bank to provide such a product since federal regulators cleared the way this year amid continuing concerns over the price of payday loans. The loans will cost $12 for every $100 borrowed — equivalent to an annual interest rate of about 71%.
Talent drain: Snap Inc. is losing its longtime chief strategy officer at a time when the Santa Monica company has seen its stock hit an all-time low. Imran Khan’s replacement at the Snapchat app-maker will have a new title, chief business officer, overseeing revenue, content and partnerships. Khan reportedly plans to start his own tech fund.
WHAT WE’RE READING
And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:
The new black: They don’t make ’em like they used to. The New York Times reports that Silicon Valley CEOs have undergone a change. “When it comes to tech CEOs, boring is the new black. Under the glare of global scrutiny, the daring, win-at-all-costs ethos that defined so much of the tech industry in the last couple of decades has been undergoing a thorough metamorphosis.”
Facing reality: The New Yorker serves up a weighty profile of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who is under pressure to make changes to his company’s operations. “These are not technical puzzles to be cracked in the middle of the night but some of the subtlest aspects of human affairs, including the meaning of truth, the limits of free speech and the origins of violence.”
Speed bumps: The Wall Street Journal says reality is catching up with hype surrounding self-driving vehicles. “Hardly a week goes by without fresh signposts that our self-driving future is just around the corner. Only it’s probably not. It will likely take decades to come to fruition.”
Higher education: The Atlantic asks why college in America is so darned expensive. “All told, including the contributions of individual families and the government (in the form of student loans, grants and other assistance), Americans spend about $30,000 per student a year — nearly twice as much as the average developed country.”
Man talk: Bloomberg discovers that, when it comes to earnings calls, it’s a man’s world. A study of more than 155,000 company conference calls over the last 19 years finds that men spoke 92% of the time. “That’s partly because male executives and analysts far outnumber women in those roles. It’s also because men just talk more.”
Fast Company serves up a video asking if Apple’s product releases have lost their buzz. The answer is yes — and no. The ironic thing, however, which seems to be lost on Fast Company’s talking heads, is that by prompting yet another video about its products, Apple must be just as buzz-worthy as ever.
For the latest money news, go to www.latimes.com/business. Mad props to Laurence Darmiento for helping put this thing together.