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.
Ever wanted to work in the historic Bradbury Building? Now, you can. NeueHouse, which provides co-working space to creative types, will open its second Los Angeles outpost in the famous Victorian-era property. Memberships will start at $595 a month for open space or $1,000 per person for office studios.
Home prices: The housing market hits the spotlight Tuesday with the release of the latest Case-Shiller home price index. National home prices rose 3.7% annually in March, down from 3.9% in February.
Durable goods: Durable goods orders, a measure of big-ticket purchases, come out Wednesday. Orders fell more than expected in April, prompting concerns of an economic showdown.
Consumer Spending: Consumer spending, which accounts for about two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, will be updated Friday. Spending increased a seasonally adjusted 0.3% in April from March.
Please please me: Among movies opening Friday, “Yesterday” will either be really great or really horrific. The premise: A British musician recovers from an accident to find that the Beatles never existed. So he claims their songs for himself. Speaking of high concepts, “Ophelia” retells the story of “Hamlet” from the perspective of the prince’s girlfriend. Think of it as woke Shakespeare.
Monday’s Business section notes that Microsoft’s past antitrust issues provide valuable lessons for today’s tech giants, which currently face intense scrutiny from regulators. Among the takeaways: Don’t play dumb when you’re accused of having a monopoly, don’t resort to spin, and don’t think you won’t have your dirty laundry aired in public.
Here are some of the other stories that ran in the Times Business section in recent days that we’re continuing to follow:
Crypto conversation: Facebook’s decision to create its own digital money — with the grandiose ambition of establishing an alternative global financial system — is jump-starting a long-simmering debate in Washington over how to regulate cryptocurrency. The entry of a big and controversial company such as Facebook could force regulators’ hand.
Princes of whales: Google’s January announcement that it would take over much of the failed Westside Pavilion shopping center, which is becoming offices, showed technology disrupting retail in the most concrete of ways. But even more, the land grab underscored the ascendancy of a new class of whale-size office tenants — tech giants turned media moguls. Those companies are gobbling up vast chunks of Los Angeles-area office space in a race to set up shop for fast-growing entertainment divisions.
Unclear on the concept: For years, automakers have been offering driver-assist technologies on many new cars. The software and sensors can help drivers stay in their lane, maintain a steady speed and, in some cases, change lanes to avoid other vehicles. But drivers don’t fully understand the technologies’ capabilities and limitations, according to a study released by a leading insurance industry group.
Crowd control: Starting Monday, Disneyland visitors will no longer need a reservation to check out the park’s $1-billion Star Wars expansion. But the theme park announced that other crowd-control measures might be deployed next week to keep the 14-acre land from becoming a crush of people of galactic proportions.
Alamo is opening: Alamo Drafthouse, the maverick cinema chain known for its beer and food service, is set to finally open its long-awaited downtown Los Angeles location next month. The Texas-based exhibitor’s 12-screen theater, located in the Bloc shopping complex at 7th and Flower streets, is nearly complete and will hold a “soft launch” in early July, the company said.
WHAT WE’RE READING
And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:
Fake maps: Lots of listings on Google Maps are fake, says the Wall Street Journal, and Google is making bank from them. “Google still can’t seem to stop the proliferation of fictional business listings and aggressive con artists on its search engine. The scams are profitable for nearly everyone involved, Google included. Consumers and legitimate businesses end up the losers.”
Bidding war: The New York Times examines how individual home buyers aren’t just competing with one another for attractive properties. They’re also up against well-heeled investment firms. “If it weren’t bad enough out there for first-time home buyers, the additional competition from investors is increasingly pushing starter homes out of the reach of many households,” says one economist.
Ongoing struggle: Bloomberg Businessweek looks at how members of the LGBTQ community still have a hard time making inroads in Hollywood. “A 2018 study by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found transgender people largely absent from Hollywood films and that only 1% of all characters in 1,100 popular films from 2007 to 2017 were from the LGBTQ community.”
Blowing smoke: From the Atlantic, an observation that vaping king Juul’s marketing is straight out of Big Tobacco’s playbook. Juul says it’s all about providing smokers with healthier options. “Throughout the 20th century, as warnings about the health risks of cigarettes arose, tobacco companies repeatedly found new ways to downplay concerns and advertise their products as healthy options.”
The best policy: Scientists left nearly 20,000 wallets, containing different amounts of money, around the world to see how honest people would be, reports Newsweek. The results were encouraging. “In 38 out of 40 countries, participants were overwhelmingly more likely to try to return the wallet to its owner when it contained money than when it was empty … In 98% of the cases, the money, not just the wallet, was given back.”
Not surprisingly, there are lots of songs about honesty, although they’re mostly about being true to your loved one, not handing in a found wallet. Billy Joel hit the theme square on the head. As did Olivia Newton John. And Madonna. Conversely, is this the greatest-ever song about dishonesty?
For the latest money news, go to www.latimes.com/business. Until next time, I’ll see you in the Business section.