Newsletter: California Inc.: Investors looking to see if Facebook can maintain its mojo


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 stock market continued its wild gyrations last week amid continued fears over rising interest rates and the China trade war, but there was positive news Friday. The Commerce Department reported that the economy expanded at a 3.5% annual pace in the third quarter, marking the strongest back-to-back quarters of growth since 2014.



Home sales: Real estate firm CoreLogic will release Southern California home prices and sales data Tuesday. The housing market has slowed in recent months as interest rates have risen, and September’s figures will provide a clearer picture of the market’s health — and whether buyers and sellers can expect further cooling in months ahead.

Facebook earnings: Facebook is scheduled to report its third-quarter earnings Tuesday. Investors will be keeping a close watch on revenue growth at the social network, which has battered by bad publicity from data breaches. The social network’s 42% year-over-year increase in the second quarter was lower than its 49% revenue growth in the first three months of the year.

Jobs report: The last snapshot of the labor market before the midterm elections comes Friday. Economists are expecting the Labor Department to report that job growth in October rebounded to 190,000 from 134,000 the previous month. With the economy still running hot, the unemployment rate is expected to hold steady at 3.7%.

Killer Queen: Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? We’ll find out Friday as Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” hits theaters. Early word suggests the film is kind of meh, but Rami Malek will rock you with his portrayal of lead singer Freddie Mercury. Here’s a taste. And in case you’re jonesing for the real deal, here’s Mr. Mercury himself.



Monday’s Business section looks at little-noticed fallout from President Trump’s decision to scuttle the Trans-Pacific Partnership, known as the TPP. The abrupt policy change has had far-reaching ripple effects in Vietnam. “As soon as America withdrew from the TPP, you saw a radical change in the way [the Vietnamese] government treated workers, labor activists and unions,” one activist says.


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

Exceeding expectations: Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk dusted his critics as the electric-car maker beat profit expectations in the third quarter. Tesla earned $311.5 million on $6.82 billion in revenue for only its third quarterly profit since 2013. The good news was tempered by a report that the government is intensifying an investigation into whether Musk misled investors about Tesla’s production capabilities.

Flameout: Star anchor Megyn Kelly was yanked from the 9 a.m. slot on NBC’s “Today” show she has hosted since September 2017. Kelly, who came to the network from Fox News with much fanfare, has had trouble attracting an audience, which made her vulnerable after she made comments defending the use of blackface on Halloween. She is said to be negotiating an exit from NBC News.

Saudi summit: JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon was among the high-profile U.S. business leaders who dropped out of a major Saudi business conference amid outrage over the killing of government critic Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. However, the Riyadh conference still attracted prominent business figures, including L.A. investment banker Ken Moelis.


Cost of trade: California has lost more jobs to China than any other state since 2001 because of Silicon Valley outsourcing and the shrinking apparel industry, according to an Economic Policy Institute report. Some 562,500 jobs were displaced in the Golden State, which the labor-affiliated think tank blames on China’s unfair trade practices, weak labor and environmental laws, and currency manipulation.

Industry shift: General Motors is opposing the Trump administration’s proposal to cap federal fuel-economy standards and unwind California’s power to set its own and mandate sales of zero-emission vehicles. Instead, the carmaker says federal regulators should embrace a nationwide electric-car sales program. The stance, supported by other manufacturers, comes as electric car development proceeds in Europe and Asia.


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

Murder mystery: Bloomberg goes full Columbo with a story about a Canadian pharmaceuticals executive and his wife who were strangled in their home. “No one knows who did it or why, but everyone has a theory.”

Have a nice day: The New York Times examines how Google circled its wagons around Andy Rubin, the “father of Android,” after he was accused of misconduct. “Google could have fired Mr. Rubin and paid him little to nothing on the way out. Instead, the company handed him a $90-million exit package, paid in installments of about $2 million a month for four years.”

Bright future: Arizona is the sunniest state in the country, but it gets only 6% of its power from solar energy, the New Yorker says. “We need a nationwide transition to renewables,” an activist says. “One of the first places we should be doing it is where it’s most efficient and cost-effective, and that’s here.”


Woof: The Atlantic strolls down the pet-food aisle and finds that our critters are eating rather well. “This transformation of pet food reflects a broader trend, in which people go to ever-greater lengths to address the human needs they project onto their pets, almost as if the animals were their children.”

Happy ending: A nifty story from the Wall Street Journal about how Disney World has quietly become a go-to place for bereaved families to scatter the ashes of loved ones. “The Haunted Mansion probably has so much human ashes in it that it’s not even funny,” one custodian said.


Just in time, Billboard is out with its list of the top 25 Halloween songs. Some are no surprise — “Dead Man’s Party” by Oingo Boingo (No. 23), “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones (No. 16), “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon (No. 8). The top tune isn’t “Monster Mash” (No. 3), which has been a holiday favorite since the Paleolithic era. It’s this one, which I won’t argue with.

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

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