Monday morning headlines

Stocks fall sharply: Today's focus is on Europe, both with weak economic data and uncertainty over the French elections. Dow is down 130 points.

Walmart shares slide: Stock is down nearly 5 percent this morning after a devastating NYT report about how an internal probe into bribery at its Mexican affiliate was stifled. From Reuters:

BMO Capital Markets analyst Wayne Hood said in a research note that the allegations could hamper the discount chain's future growth both domestically and abroad. "Articles like this will be used against the company by activists and competitors when it attempts to open stores in the US and abroad," Hood wrote in a note on Monday.

Gas update: Average gallon of regular in the L.A. area is $4.207, according to the Auto Club, down four cents from a week ago and about 17 cents from a month ago.

Construction is back: Part of it involves the growing demand for apartments, but offices, warehouses and stores are going up as well. From the LAT:

"We haven't had any meaningful construction of any type since 2005 or 2006," said Hessam Nadji, managing director of research at [Marcus & Millichap]. "A new cycle is beginning." He expects 6,600 apartments and 2.4 million square feet of commercial space to be delivered this year in Los Angeles County. More is on the way. "We're finally coming out of our bunkers," Los Angeles developer Wayne Ratkovich said of his fellow builders. "People are tired of being down in the dumps and are starting to look for opportunities."

CA jobs revised upward: The state added 18,200 jobs in March, which is pretty good, but the better news is that February saw a pickup of 38,600 positions, up from the original estimate of 4,000. (Beacon Economics)

Prime-time ratings are down: In the past month, NBC lost an average of 59,000 viewers (3 percent) in the 18-to-49 age category compared with last year, CBS lost 239,000 (8 percent), ABC lost 681,000 (21 percent) and Fox lost 709,000 (20 percent). Various explanations are offered, from the time of year to the lower ratings for "American Idol." (NYT)

Peter Chernin secures financing: The former number two at News Corp., who has formed his own development company, will receive funding from Providence Equity Partners and a small number of other investors. From the NYT:

Mr. Chernin declined to discuss the exact terms of his new financing. But it is expected to leave him with 55 percent or more of the media company he started shortly after resigning as the president and chief operating officer of News Corporation -- and as Rupert Murdoch's top lieutenant -- in 2009, according to people familiar with the deal. In return, the company, based in Santa Monica, Calif., will get about $200 million for its next round of investments.

"Hunger Games" no longer tops: The blockbuster fell to third in the weekend box office derby, beaten out by "Think Like a Man" and "The Lucky One." "Hunger Games" has picked up $572.8 million on domestic and overseas ticket sales. (THR)

More by Mark Lacter:
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Another rugged quarter for Tribune Co. papers
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Those awful infographics that promise to explain and only distort
Best to low-ball today's employment report
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Crazy opening for Twitter*
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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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