Thursday morning headlines

Stocks slide lower: The major indexes are showing little direction this morning as investors try to figure out where the market is headed. Dow is down 20 in early trading.

Bank probe widens:Federal prosecutors are looking into whether several Wall Street firms misled investors about their involvement in mortgage-bond deals, the WSJ is reporting.

The criminal probe marks an important juncture in the fallout from the financial crisis and highlights the severity of the scrutiny for Wall Street. Prosecutors have brought just one major criminal case stemming from the crisis, against two Bear Stearns Cos. traders, and lost it. Lawmakers are calling on prosecutors to do more. Prosecutors so far are simply gathering evidence. They haven't issued criminal subpoenas, nor have they homed in on the outlines of any potential case.

Cuomo also sniffing: NY's Attorney General has started an investigation of eight banks to determine if they provided misleading information to the ratings agencies regarding mortgage securities. (NYT)

CA foreclosures filings fall: April notices of default fell 16 percent from March and 41 percent from a year earlier, according to ForeclosureRadar. Notices of trustee sale dropped 10 percent from the previous month and 3 percent from a year earlier. (OC Register)

AZ boycott complications: Both LAX and the Port of Los Angeles have ongoing business arrangements that won't be easy - or advisable - to get out of, despite the city council voting to boycott the state. From the Daily Breeze:

Harbor Department officials fear that rescinding contracts with three Arizona-based freight haulers would severely impact significant gains made over the last two years with the Clean Trucks Program, which requires all big rigs to meet 2007 federal emissions standards by 2012. Swift Transportation Corp., Knight Transportation and Duncan and Son Lines have already received more than $16.4 million worth of incentives for purchasing a total of 423 new big rigs that serve the nation's busiest port.

Port activity improves: April container traffic was up 12 percent at the Port of L.A. compared with a year earlier, and 19 percent at the Port of Long Beach. Year-ago comparisons have been easy to beat; volumes are still off significantly from 2007 highs.

Rig owner asks for relief: Transocean will petition a federal court to limit its liability in the Gulf of Mexico drilling disaster to just under $27 million, Dow Jones is reporting. BP was leasing the rig from Transocean.

Support for oil drilling: Six out of 10 Americans surveyed in a WSJ/NBC News poll still support offshore drilling. "Stuff happens like that, you still have to press forward," said one respondent.

State budget looking bleak: More trouble ahead for the poor, old and sick if the governor has his way. From the LAT:

Administration officials declined to reveal which specific programs the governor would eliminate. But officials involved in the budget process, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly, said they would probably include home healthcare for the elderly and disabled, a nearly $2-billion program that serves 440,000 Californians. Cuts that lawmakers and the governor made to the program in an effort to balance the budget have been blocked by legal rulings over the last year.

Saban buys back "Power Rangers" rights: No word on how much the L.A. billionaire is paying Disney, but he says he's already licensed the show to Nickelodeon. (NYT)

Saban looking at Newsweek: But he sounds less enthusiastic than he did a couple of years ago when he was turned down by the magazine's parent, the Washington Post Co. "The world has significantly changed in the last two years, and not for the better," Saban told the WSJ.

OC insurance broker gets jail time: James R. Halstead was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for stealing $50 million from investors. He had promised returns of 25 percent to 35 percent over three to four months. (LAT)

Sona to close: David Myers' high-end eatery on La Cienega will be shuttered on Saturday. The investment partners pulled out last year, and Sona was forced to file Chapter 11. (LAT)

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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