Thursday morning headlines

Bernanke sees slower growth: That's not exactly shocking news, but you and me saying it isn't quite the same as the nation's top moneyman saying it. In Congressional testimony this morning, he also used the word "noticeably" to describe the slowdown, which is a big deal in Fed-speak. But he does expect the economy to strengthen later next year. Nothing in his remarks would suggest that another rate cut is in the offing. (AP)

Blah market: At least it's better than an ugly market. The news remains pretty bad, what with Morgan Stanley's $3.7 billion loss in September and October (subprime related), not-so-hot retail results last month, and oil hovering around $97. But Ford did Wall Street a favor with better-than-expected third-quarter results. (MarketWatch)

Still raising money: Times may be getting tough, but private equity firms have pulled in a record $263 billion so far this year - and with nearly two months left in 2007, they're closing in on $300 billion. Of course raising money is one thing - investing it these days is something else. Buyout shops announced just $8.5 billion of new deals in October, roughly a fifth of the $42.2 billion a year earlier, according to Dealogic. (Deal Journal)

Strike entering deep freeze: With both sides cooling their heels for goodness knows how long, there's not much new. Fox got into a "life goes on" mode by juggling its mid-season lineup that now excludes its top drama, "24." For now, ABC is still sticking to its plan to air "Lost" in midseason (eight episodes have been produced). Also, next week will be the last episode of "The Office." The show's writers, several of whom are also actors, began picketing and Steve Carell, the lead actor, refused to cross picket lines. Other primetime shows may soon follow since many of television's so-called show runners - those are folks who write as well as produce - are siding with the Writers Guild. (LAT)

Southwest ends open boarding: From now on folks who pay the highest fares - presumably the biz crowd - will get to board in the first group, no matter when they show up at the airport. They also get extra frequent-flier credits and one free drink. This is all part of the airline's effort to generate more revenue per seat. From the NYT:

Starting today, a new class of Southwest fares, called “business select,” will cost $10 to $30 more than the airline’s recent highest fares, which were typically purchased at the last minute. Passengers paying the extra money will receive “A” boarding passes, allowing them to line up in the first group; in the past, all passengers, regardless of how much they paid, had a more or less equal opportunity to get an “A” pass by checking in online, beginning 24 hours before a flight. Preboarding for families and others who need more time, which used to occur before “A” group boarding, was recently switched to after “A” boarding.

Disney investigates claims: the Mouse House is looking into claims of labor abuse at a stuffed-toy factory in southern China. The allegations include employees at the Tianyu Toys factory working up to 16 hours a day with two days off a month. An activist group said it had carried out an undercover survey and that employees had spoken of forced overtime and illegal pay levels. (AP)

Arrests in FBI sting: The feds have filed charges against 23 people in an equipment lease scheme that operated out of OC and allegedly defrauded banks of more than $20 million. Companies arranged high-cost loans to small businesses by using money that was supposed to purchase office equipment for leasing. Instead, say prosecutors, the companies provided no equipment and reaped large commissions. From the Register:

Legitimate equipment leases are structured like business loans, with a broker matching equipment and funding to the client. The equipment lessee then makes monthly payments to the bank or other funding source. At the end of the lease period, the lessee either returns or purchases the equipment. Banks use the equipment as collateral in case the client fails to keep up with payments. To protect against scams, the banks check by phone – or occasionally with site visits -- to make sure the equipment has been delivered and installed.

Amgen updates warning: That's the black box warning label with new information about the risks of its anemia drugs. The TO-based biotech company also said it will ask the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to loosen payment restrictions for the drugs. CMS limited the conditions after safety concerns about the drugs were raised. The black-box warning and updated prescribing information apply to Aranesp and Epogen along with Procrit, which is marketed by a Johnson & Johnson. (MarketWatch)

More by Mark Lacter:
American-US Air settlement with DOJ includes small tweak at LAX
Socal housing market going nowhere fast
Amazon keeps pushing for faster L.A. delivery
Another rugged quarter for Tribune Co. papers
How does Stanford compete with the big boys?
Those awful infographics that promise to explain and only distort
Best to low-ball today's employment report
Further fallout from airport shootings
Crazy opening for Twitter*
Should Twitter be valued at $18 billion?
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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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