Explaining Southern California's economy

Dodgers sale: New York media mini-mogul and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner jumps in

Game Over McCoourt

Corey Bridwell/KPCC

Kristie Wold from Downey, CA celebrated McCourt's decision to part with the Dodgers on Wednesday, November 2, 2011.

Well, this was totally unexpected. Jared Kushner — the boyish owner of the New York Observer, scion of a somewhat controversial money clan from the Big Apple, and husband to Ivanka Trump — has made it to the next round of bidding for the Los Angeles Dodgers. How Kushner gets through when Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban doesn't is a mystery to me. But there he is. This is from Bill Shaikin at the LA Times:

Jared Kushner, born into a prominent New York real estate family and son-in-law of Donald Trump, has emerged as a candidate in the bidding for the Dodgers.

Kushner, who became owner and publisher of the New York Observer in 2006, has played a key role in expanding the family business beyond real estate. At 31, he would be the youngest owner in Major League Baseball.

The Kushner bid is one of at least nine to advance to the second round of the Dodgers' ownership sweepstakes. The bid has not previously surfaced publicly and was confirmed by a person familiar with the sale process but not authorized to discuss it.

Read More...

Wait! The U.S. could be the worlds largest energy producer by 2020?

Keith Srakocic/AP

A rig in Washington, Pa., drills into shale rock to extract natural gas.

Indeed it could. This is from Bloomberg:

Domestic oil output is the highest in eight years. The U.S. is producing so much natural gas that, where the government warned four years ago of a critical need to boost imports, it now may approve an export terminal. Methanex Corp., the world’s biggest methanol maker, said it will dismantle a factory in Chile and reassemble it in Louisiana to take advantage of low natural gas prices. And higher mileage standards and federally mandated ethanol use, along with slow economic growth, have curbed demand.

[...]

The transformation, which could see the country become the world’s top energy producer by 2020, has implications for the economy and national security -- boosting household incomes, jobs and government revenue; cutting the trade deficit; enhancing manufacturers’ competitiveness; and allowing greater flexibility in dealing with unrest in the Middle East.

Read More...

Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein and gay marriage: Why not?

This was unexpected news! It turns out that Goldman Sachs embattled, controversial CEO Lloyd Blankfein is a supporter of same-sex marriage. Now he's recorded a short video for Human Rights Campaign, an organization that, according to DealBook, has "persuaded" him to be its "first national corporate spokesman for same-sex marriage." 

Susanne Craig, the NYTimes writer, goes on to express what many were probably already thinking:

[T]he campaign is sure to turn heads on Wall Street, which despite having made progress on equality issues over the last decade, is still considered to be a male-dominated, testosterone-driven place.

But if you thought Blankfein was emblematic of that culture...well, you were wrong:

Behind the scenes, Mr. Blankfein has long been a supporter of same-sex marriage. Last year, he signed a letter urging state lawmakers to vote for a bill legalizing same-sex marriage and encouraged other chief executives to do the same. He also called lawmakers directly on the matter. The New York Legislature passed the law last summer.

Under Mr. Blankfein’s guidance, Goldman has also pushed employment policies that promote equality. It reimburses employees for the extra taxes they pay on domestic partner benefits. In 2002, the company made headlines for offering gender reassignment operations to employees.

[...]

The Human Rights Campaign approached Mr. Blankfein in November through a gay executive at Goldman, and he was immediately receptive to the idea, according to people briefed on the matter but not authorized to speak publicly. As part of a national effort, Mr. Blankfein, wearing a crisp white shirt and red-patterned tie, appears in 32-second Web spot intended to drum up support and donations.

Read More...

Steve Rattner talks about General Motors' $10 billion 'stretch goal' for profits

Steven Rattner, the Obama Administration's "car czar" who oversaw the bankruptcies and bailouts of both General Motors and Chrysler, went on CNBC this morning talking about what he described as General Motors' "stretch goal" of $10 billion in profits and a 10 percent profit margin in 2012 (and beyond). Rattner also took the opportunity to ding Mitt Romnney for his "flip-flops" on whether the bailouts were a good thing (read all about them here on the op-ed page of the New York Times). GM is expected to report an $8 billion profit for 2011, so it's getting much tougher to argue that this is a company that shouldn't have been allowed to survive.

Rattner is obviously proud of his work and has good reason modestly boast while supporting GM's "energy and ambition." But I think he might be wrong to side with a Wall Street Journal piece (sorry, can't find the link) that insists GM should never again focus on market share over profitability. The idea here is that making money is more important than pursuing an abstract number that doesn't necessarily contribute to the bottom line. After all, you could have 10 percent share of the U.S. market (GM currently has about 18 percent, down from 21 percent for 2011) and still make a lot of money.

Read More...

How long does the government expect borrowers to stay underwater on mortgages?

While Sales Of Existing Homes Rise In July, Prices Continue To Fall

David McNew/Getty Images

A recent ProPublica/NPR report on Freddie May refusing to refinance mortgages for struggling homeowners shows that the market is still coming to terms with new ways of measuring risk.

There's a battle looming between Congress and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the entity that's been responsible for mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae since the two were taken over by the government during the financial crisis. California and New York are also in the fray, given that those states' attorneys general have been resisting a mortgage settlement with big banks. But that resistance may be collapsing, now that principal writedowns are on the table. Meanwhile, the FHFA remains opposed to writedowns.

So what would principal writedowns entail? Well, the problem many homeowners are up against is that they owe more than their homes are worth. If they paid $300,000, with a 10 percent downpayment, the principal is $270,000. That's what they financed through the mortgage at whatever interest rate they were able to obtain. The monthly expense is made up of a payment that applies to the principal, the interest, and in may cases, insurance and property taxes. (And my example is boilerplate — in some regions, much higher loans, so-called "jumbo loans," make the situation more difficult.)

Read More...