Explaining Southern California's economy

Greek default averted: It's all a game of kick-the-can

Violence Erupts As Greece Decides On Euro Future

Milos Bicanski/Getty Images

ATHENS, GREECE - FEBRUARY 12: People clash with police in the streets during a demonstration against the new austerity measures on February 12, 2012 in Athens, Greece. Greece's creditors have demanded further austerity measures before approving a new bailout from the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund amid renewed concerns the country may default. (Photo by Vladimir Rys/Getty Images)

Here's the quote of the past weekend (from Bloomberg), stemming from the latest Greek bailout deal:

The euro area has...“bought time” for countries such as Portugal to prove they are more creditworthy than Greece and to erect stronger defenses in the form of a larger bailout fund, said Carsten Brzeski, an economist at ING Groep in Brussels.

“The often-cited Greek can has again been kicked down the road,” he said. “The good thing is that the can is still on the road, but it requires a huge amount of stamina and patience to keep it there.”

Translation: We're going to playing kick-the-can for...another eight years at least? Because it's hard to see Greek reducing its debt from the current 160 percent of GDP to 120 percent until then. The obvious question is, "Just how much road have we got it?" And, "Will that can hold up to another decade of kicking?"

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Lucky or unlucky Dow 13,000?

Dow Jones Industrial Average Closes Slightly Down

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

U.S. stock markets have been rallying since October. Time to get worried?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has been bumping along at or just below 13,000 for a few trading days now. As the Wall Street Journal points out, the Dow is up 22 percent since October, an impressive rally given that the economic news, while improving, isn't that good.

So what does it all mean? Well, you could argue for extreme caution at this point. Because the risk-craving money has probably already come into the markets, earning its double-digit returns, it's going to start looking for a way out. Enter the "dumb money," otherwise known as the retail investor. Some analysts think the dumb money has already showed up and is keeping the market elevated.

Regardless, the tail end of a rally can be hard on unseasoned investors. They may panic if they bought high and suddenly see their holdings turn lower as the pros rush back to cash, preparing for the next sustained rally. 

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Why do some critics despise 'Downton Abbey?'

Photograph Nick Briggs. +44(0)20.

The Season 2 finale of Downton Abbey aired on PBS Masterpiece Classics this Sunday, Feb. 19.

At my house, we just wrapped up Season 2 of the breakout British T.V. hit, "Downton Abbey." Matthew Crawley, heir to the estate and future Earl of Grantham, finally proposed (again) to the luminous Lady Crawley, as 1919 turned into 1920 and gigantic glowing snowflakes blanketed the English countryside. "Downton," which mashes up "Upstairs, Downstairs" with "Atonement" and "Brideshead Revisited," is a finest piece of televise soap you can currently consume in the West. It's addictive, in the way that that these heavy breathing, highly acted British costume dramas are. Americans can't get enough of it.

Not so the English intelligentsia. First Simon Schama, an influential Columbia University historian who once hosted an entire series about the British, laid into "Downton" at the Daily Beast. For Schama, it's personal:

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High California gas prices are actually a good thing

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Corey Bridwell/KPCC

Gas prices at a Chevron station in Pasadena, CA.

Time to panic about rising gas prices in the Golden State? Most definitely, if you accept the L.A. Times' analysis:

The [gas] price surge has been particularly steep in California, in part because of maintenance at some refineries that make the state's cleaner-burning gasoline. Statewide, average pump prices for regular gasoline crossed the $4 mark over the weekend and reached an average of $4.031 a gallon Monday, up 5% in just the last week and nearly 9% higher than a month ago.

The price of oil is also moving up, due largely to two factors: worries about unrest in the Middle East over Iran's nuclear program; and commodities speculation. That second one is significant. Hedge funds could be playing the price run-up two ways, by betting on higher prices in the future, or by "shorting" the market and wagering that the price will come down.

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Taylor Hackford versus the Internet pirates

64th Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards - Show

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for DGA

DGA President Taylor Hackford and host Kelsey Grammer speak onstage during the 64th Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards held at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland on January 28, 2012 in Hollywood, California.

Directors Guild of America President Taylor Hackford went on "The Patt Morrison Show" on Wednesday to offer withering opposition to the opponents of SOPA and PIPA, the two pieces of federal legislation that are intended to halt the scourge of online copyright piracy and, if you believe Hackford, to preserve the gainful employment of many thousands of entertainment industry workers who make far less money than he does ($50,000 a year, on average).

You certainly can't begrudge Hackford his defense of the "artists" against the Internet ruffians. He's made some fine films, including "An Officer and a Gentleman" and "Ray" (we'll forgive him "Against All Odds" and the improbable ballet-tap Cold War mashup "White Nights"). He's on his second go-round as the DGA prez. That said, he could have done a better job of dealing with Patt's question during the segment about the Hollywood business model.

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