The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

September housing starts, more on Pandit, Microsoft prices Surface

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Builders haven't been building this fast since July 2008: "Construction activity rose in three of the nation's four regions. The biggest increases came in the West and South. Housing starts increased by nearly 20 percent in both regions." (Commerce Dept.)

Maybe buying Merrill Lynch wasn't such a great idea. Bank of America suffers an expensive quarter: "Overall, Bank of America reported a profit $340 million versus a profit of $6.23 billion a year earlier." (WSJ)

North American energy boom continues: "Exxon Mobil agreed on Wednesday to buy Celtic Exploration for about $3.1 billion in cash and stock, as it sought to expand its presence in the energy-rich shale formations of western Canada." (DealBook)

The beginning of the end for the PC? Intel takes a hit in the quarter: "The big chip maker, whose microprocessors power most desktop PCs and laptops, said it is significantly scaling back production in the fourth quarter in response to weaker than expected demand." (WSJ)

Outgoing Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit and Chairman Michael O'Neill just had to quit each other: "O'Neill criticized Pandit for being too detached from the bank's day-to-day operations, and told him to get more involved, according to sources briefed on the situation." (Reuters)

$499. $599. $699. Microsoft prices its Surface tablet. (Seattle Times)

Building the iPhone 5 is no walk in the Foxconn factory park: "Factory employees are still learning how to build the phone." (CNET)

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter. And ask Matt questions at Quora.

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