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.
Investors are feeling a tail wind after stocks ended higher last week amid renewed hopes of a cut in interest rates. Fed Chairman Jerome H. Powell told Congress that economic crosscurrents “have reemerged, creating greater uncertainty.”
Retail sales: Consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, so retail sales are a big deal, and the latest figures come out Tuesday. In May, sales rose 0.5% as households bought more motor vehicles and a variety of other goods.
Homebuilding: Housing starts will be released Wednesday. Homebuilding fell 0.9% in May, but data for the prior two months were revised higher and building permits increased.
Consumer sentiment: Consumer sentiment takes center stage Friday. Sentiment was down in June amid ongoing trade tension and concerns about the economy.
Hakuna matata: Disney made a ton of money with its 1994 animated film “The Lion King.” It’s now releasing a new version of “The Lion King,” so more money undoubtedly will be made. It opens Friday. For slightly more original fare, check out “David Crosby: Remember My Name,” a documentary about the famed performer.
Monday’s Business section examines how a black market in wildlife trafficking thrives on Facebook and Instagram. From orangutans and cheetah cubs to opioids and ancient Middle Eastern antiquities, if something can be sold illegally, researchers say, it’s likely being sold somewhere on the sites. And things could be about to get worse.
Here are some of the other stories that ran in the Times Business section in recent days that we’re continuing to follow:
Down and out: Two years after methane gas began leaking from Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon storage field, one of the company’s key pipelines exploded, starting a fire in the desert and leaving a smoking crater in the ground. The 30-inch pipeline is still out of service, and Aliso Canyon remains restricted. Some experts are worried a heat wave could send prices soaring once again this summer.
Banding together: Gig workers from across the state headed to Sacramento in the hope of persuading legislators to pass Assembly Bill 5, the effects of which would include forcing Uber, Lyft and other app-based on-demand services to treat their pools of contractors as employees. Switching from a contractor to an employee model would require major shifts in how these companies operate, at least in California.
Our gang: WarnerMedia is looking for a little help from its “Friends” to launch the company’s upcoming streaming service. The AT&T-owned business said its new service, which will launch next spring, would have exclusive rights to all 236 episodes of “Friends,” which was produced by Warner Bros. Television and has been one of Netflix’s most popular shows.
Not so sweet: Jason Sugarman, a minority owner of the Los Angeles Football Club and son-in-law of Hollywood mogul Peter Guber, has been accused of participating in an elaborate scheme that defrauded investors in tribal bonds of some $43 million. The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Sugarman with multiple violations of securities laws in a civil complaint that seeks to fine him and recoup some $9 million.
Far, far away: Disneyland announced that the second attraction at its new Star Wars land won’t open til Jan. 17 — after the peak winter holiday season. The Anaheim theme park had previously said the Rise of the Resistance ride would open this year. The ride is designed to put parkgoers in the middle of a fierce battle between resistance fighters and the evil forces of the First Order.
WHAT WE’RE READING
And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:
Poor choices: The New York Times delved into the purported fortune of financier and alleged child molester Jeffrey Epstein. “At his peak in the early 2000s, a magazine profile said he employed 150 people, some working out of the historic Villard Houses on Madison Avenue. Much of that appears to be an illusion, and there is little evidence that Mr. Epstein is a billionaire.”
Hot wheels: Car sharing can go hand in hand with car theft, Bloomberg reports. A firm called Car2Go discovered that thieves were making off with its Mercedes vehicles. “Car2Go sent several workers to retrieve the vehicles, only to find that a group of thieves had claimed them as their own. Some blocked the vehicles in to prevent repossession; others threatened the company’s employees.”
Payez ici: France is pressing ahead with a digital tax for online companies — despite objections from Silicon Valley and the U.S. government, the Wall Street Journal says. “Several other countries are following suit, arguing that tech companies pay too little corporate tax under current rules, and that interim taxes are necessary until an international agreement is reached.”
Bad medicine: Newsweek serves up a fascinating excerpt adapted from “Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom” by Katherine Eban. It isn’t pretty: “Fraud is widespread, Eban writes, in order to circumvent inspections and maximize profits. FDA oversight has been, to be kind, uneven, she says.”
Captcha: The Atlantic looks at what it calls “the Slackification of the American home,” with families increasingly communicating and managing via online apps. “Parents are finding project-management platforms such as Trello, Asana and Jira … particularly useful in their personal lives. In other words, confronted with relentless busyness, some modern households are starting to run more like offices.”
Speaking of the joys of online communication, here’s a nifty video from Wired about how smartphone notifications are driving us crazy. One study says some people receive four times as many notifications daily as they’d prefer. Not surprisingly, experts say all these notifications are highly stressful — and they feel the solution may be “technology to help people deal with technology.” I’m not so sure about that.
For the latest money news, go to latimes.com/business. Until next time, I’ll see you in the Business section.