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.
Friday brought news that the labor market is feeling its oats. Employers shrugged off the partial government shutdown and engaged in a burst of hiring in January, adding 304,000 jobs, the most in nearly a year. The U.S. has now added jobs for 100 straight months, the longest such period on record.
Mouse House: Walt Disney Co. reports its latest earnings Tuesday. Watch out for any updates on plans for a much-anticipated streaming service, called Disney+, and any progress toward closing the blockbuster deal to buy much of 21st Century Fox.
Speech time: President Trump delivers his post-shutdown State of the Union address Tuesday. Investors will be listening for clues about possible economic stimulus, such as big-ticket infrastructure projects that both Republicans and Democrats might support.
Consumer borrowing: The latest word on consumer credit will be released by the Federal Reserve on Thursday. In November, consumer borrowing increased by $22.1 billion to a seasonally adjusted $3.98 trillion.
Everything is awesome: “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” opens Friday and will likely tower over the Hollywood competition. Also arriving in theaters is “What Men Want,” in which Taraji P. Henson gets inside Tracy Morgan's head after gaining Mel Gibson-like powers to hear the thoughts of the opposite sex.
Monday’s Business section takes a gander at how $1,000 “Trump tax bonuses” have (and haven’t) affected workers’ lives. Windfall gains such as bonuses are more likely to be spent on what economists call hedonic purchases — indulgent, pleasure-giving goods such as vacations, meals out and clothes for special occasions. As one researcher put it, it’s as if the mind is telling you, “This is a rare treat, so I should enjoy it!”
Here are some of the other stories that ran in The Times Business section in recent days that we’re continuing to follow:
Bankruptcy filing: Despite critics who called the move a cynical business strategy, PG&E filed for bankruptcy protection in anticipation of huge legal claims stemming from a series of deadly wildfires. The filing kicks off an unpredictable process that could take years to resolve and is likely to result in higher energy bills for the millions of Californians who depend on Pacific Gas & Electric for power.
Winter is here: The housing market’s chill grew colder in December, as sales plunged 20% across Southern California and home prices inched up 1.1% from a year earlier, to $515,000. The report is the latest indication of a substantial market shift as buyers balk at the high cost of housing.
Shocking Tesla: The electric car maker was rocked by another high-level departure when its chief financial officer, Deepak Ahuja, announced his retirement at the end of an earnings call. The company reported higher cash flow but shrinking profits in the fourth quarter. Later in the week came a report that Model 3 sales were down sharply in January.
Apple bug: The iPhone maker scrambled to fix an embarrassing privacy glitch involving its FaceTime video-chat app that allowed people to eavesdrop on others before a call had even started. The bug was discovered by a teenager in Arizona whose mother submitted a report to Apple, which took days to finally repair the problem.
H-1B limbo: Leo Wang, a Chinese immigrant with a graduate degree from USC, was recently fired by his Silicon Valley employer. Why? He couldn’t get an H-1B visa. While many zero in on Trump’s crackdown against illegal immigration, his administration has also tightened or ended various paths to legal immigration.
WHAT WE’RE READING
And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:
Family secrets: The Wall Street Journal tells the story of two sisters who purchased home DNA kits and saw their family upended as a result. “In an age of ubiquitous direct-to-consumer genetic testing, family secrets are almost impossible to keep.”
Geriatric medicine: Is there a point where old doctors should be put out to pasture? The New York Times tackles that question, noting that “almost a quarter of practicing physicians were 65 or older in 2015, according to the American Medical Association. In 2017, more than 122,00 physicians in that age group were engaged in patient care.”
Fake news: Wired examines how reports of a cancer cure being found once again prove tragically wrong. “Misinformation spreads faster online than attempts to claw it back. While outrage may be the fuel that feeds the virality of most fake news stories, when it comes to news about our health, people tend to be motivated by a more upbeat impulse.”
Riddle me this: The New Yorker casts its eye on the recent BuzzFeed layoffs and the role amateur online quizzes may have played in the cutback. “In the recent past the second highest traffic driver worldwide has been a community user in Michigan who is a teenager in college who, for some reason, makes dozens of quizzes every week.”
Neither snow nor rain: From the Atlantic, a look at the quiet heroism of mail delivery. “Natural disasters can wreck a community’s infrastructure, upending systems for months or years. There are some services, however, that remind us that life will eventually return, in some form, to normal.”
Looking for an unusual investment? Bloomberg reports that rock legend David Gilmour is auctioning off his guitar collection, including the 1969 black Fender Stratocaster used on Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” and “Wish You Were Here.” The “Black Strat” headlines the sale of more than 120 instruments by Christie’s New York on June 20. Proceeds will go to charity. (And if you haven’t already, check out how “Dark Side of the Moon” makes for a whole new “Wizard of Oz.”)
For the latest money news, go to www.latimes.com/business. Mad props to Laurence Darmiento for helping put this thing together.