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 question being asked by traders Monday is whether Friday’s market sell-off has run its course. The Dow lost nearly 500 points amid renewed fears of a slowing economy. Closer to home the news was quite a bit brighter, as the California economy added 14,600 jobs in February as more people returned to the workforce.
Apple goes Hollywood: The tech giant has spent the last two years securing deals with show business royalty such as Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey to create a programming lineup to compete with Netflix, Amazon and Walt Disney Co. Apple’s streaming plans have been cloaked in secrecy, but Chief Executive Tim Cook is expected to pull back the curtain when he takes the stage Monday morning at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, Calif.
Home prices: Home prices take center stage Tuesday with the release of the January Case-Shiller index. In December, seasonally adjusted prices for the 20-city index were up 0.19% month over month. The seasonally adjusted national year-over-year change has hovered between 4.2% and 6.7% for more than two years.
Trade deficit: President Trump used to talk all the time about the trade deficit. He stopped when the deficit started rising on his watch. On Wednesday, we’ll see how he feels about the latest numbers. In December, the trade deficit jumped 12.8% to $79.5 billion. Exports declined 2.8% and imports rose 2.4%.
Consumer spending: Are Americans still shopping? We’ll find out Friday when the latest stats on consumer spending come out. There was bad news in December: Adjusted consumer spending was down 1.2% from the month before. Although comparisons with December 2017 were more upbeat, it was hardly the robust results many were expecting.
Elephants: Disney once again resurrects an old cartoon as a new live-action movie with Friday’s release of “Dumbo,” directed by Tim Burton. I’m more curious about a new documentary called “The Brink,” which explores former White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon’s efforts to spread right-wing nationalism throughout the world.
Monday’s Business section looks at the likelihood of kids seeing undesirable content when they visit YouTube. After years of vowing to police inappropriate content, the site continues to deliver violent imagery, drug references, sexually suggestive sequences and foul, racially charged language in clips that reach children at a troubling pace, say researchers, parents and consumer groups.
Here are some of the other stories that ran in the Times Business section in recent days that we’re continuing to follow:
Hollywood mega deal: Walt Disney Co. closed its purchase of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets in a $71.3-billion deal that will reshape the media landscape. Catch up here on the Times’ sweeping coverage of the landmark acquisition set off by Rupert Murdoch’s decision to downsize the empire he spent decades building.
Hollywood exit: Warner Bros. Chairman and Chief Executive Kevin Tsujihara quit amid allegations that he had an affair with an aspiring actress in 2013 and tried to get her parts in movies and TV shows. The scandal hit at an inopportune time for AT&T Inc., which had given the veteran entertainment executive an expanded role following its acquisition of the studio last year as part of its deal for Time Warner Inc.
Economic slowdown: Federal Reserve officials downgraded their estimate for U.S. economic growth this year to just 2.1% while signaling there will be no more interest rate hikes until 2020. Two days later, Trump said that he planned to nominate conservative economist Stephen Moore, a critic of the Fed who served as a Trump campaign advisor, to a seat on the central bank’s board.
Crash update: As the investigation into the second crash of a 737 Max 8 jetliner in six months intensified, there were reports that plane maker Boeing had charged carriers extra for some safety features that neither jetliner had — and which possibly could have averted the disasters. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s national airline sought cancellation of a multibillion-dollar order for the jets, citing a loss of confidence in the planes.
Port battle: A fierce struggle over automation has erupted at the busy Port of Los Angeles, as local union officials representing some 12,000 dockworkers demand that one of the world’s largest shipping firms abandon a plan to introduce driverless electric cargo trucks. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union fear the plan by Denmark’s Moller-Maersk could eliminate hundreds of jobs.
WHAT WE’RE READING
And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:
Tunnel vision: The Virginia Mercury reports on Virginia transit officials checking out Elon Musk’s L.A. tunnel. They weren’t impressed. “They’ve purchased a used boring machine. They’ve put a bore in the neighborhood where they developed the SpaceX product, and they’ve taken a Model 3 and put guidewheels on it … None of that, I think, is really significant from a standpoint of moving this process forward.”
Railroaded: California’s bullet train isn’t the only rail project facing scrutiny. The Wall Street Journal says a Hawaiian train also is running up bills. “More than a decade after inception, having spanned the tenures of three mayors and three governors and outlived its most powerful benefactor in Congress, the project is only half built.”
High hopes: Time magazine looks at Singapore Airlines’ efforts to improve in-flight meals by working with a New Jersey “vertical farm.” “A variety of leafy greens are grown with only light, nutrients and oxygen — there’s no sunlight or soil to speak of. The operation … resembles a data center, but instead of racks upon racks of servers and other hardware, it has rows of plants in various stages of growth.”
Ship shape: Cardboard is back, declares the New York Times. “The reason for the revival has to do with the millions of packages that Amazon and other online retailers ship around the world — specifically, the humble cardboard used to construct them. Over the past five years, e-commerce has fueled demand for billions more square feet of cardboard.”
Happy feet: If you’re like me, you wonder from time to time about those unceasing ads for Shen Yun, the Chinese dance troupe that apparently dazzles critics worldwide. The New Yorker wondered as well. “The ads have to be both ubiquitous and devoid of content so that they can convince more than a million people to pay good money to watch what is, essentially, religious-political propaganda.”
Americans are losing their taste for beer. Consumption fell by about 8.5% between 2010 and 2017. But this video from the Journal shows that the suds biz isn’t taking the threat lying down. Among measures being taken: A deeper push into nonalcoholic drinks, as well as spirits and wine. They’re also trying to stir up buzz with limited-edition offerings. Cheers!
For the latest money news, go to www.latimes.com/business. Mad props to Laurence Darmiento for helping put this thing together.