Sour milk

The Journal on its Marketplace front says federal regulators are investigating whether the dairy industry’s biggest co-op fixed prices.

That’s not all the problems facing the Dairy Farmers of America. The feds are looking into “a secret transfer of cash”—$1 million—to a former director, and it’s being sued for holding down what it pays farmers for raw milk. Who knew the dairy industry was such a hotbed of intrigue?

The allegations and the respective government inquiries follow six years of rapid consolidation in the dairy industry, one of the reasons milk prices have risen sharply in recent years. But it is difficult to determine how much the alleged manipulation, if it took place, might have affected consumer and farm-level prices because so many other factors influence them.

The investigation is looking at where the co-op drove up milk prices by trading cheese contracts in Chicago.

Microsoft not done with Yahoo

The papers all report that Microsoft is coming back at Yahoo two weeks after it abandoned its earlier bid, but it’s not necessarily a full takeover bid. This time—days after investor Carl Icahn started rattlingYahoo’s cage, which the LAT says changed the “dynamics”— Microsoft just wants part of the company, though it says it may actually want the whole thing later—or something like that.

The WSJ, The New York Times, and Financial Times all have front-page stories saying that Microsoft is proposing a search-advertisement deal. That’s at least in part to keep Google from pairing up with Yahoo, the WSJ says:

The maneuvering highlights the pressure on Microsoft to find new options to compete more effectively with Google in online advertising. Major media and technology companies are trying to double down on Internet advertising, with the expectation that major advertisers in coming years will further shift their ad spending online from traditional media such as TV commercials.

The NYT says the news shows “Microsoft Needs a Franchise,” and doubts that it can win in the search and ad business on its own.

Chinese workers fear unsafe buildings

The Washington Post on A1 says fear from the horrendous earthquake in China is keeping employees from going to work. They say they won’t return until inspections show that their buildings are structurally sound. The Post says that may lead to “economic aftershocks” that would only deepen the misery.

Early assessments of the disaster’s economic impact predicted that it would be “minimal,” “transient” and “limited.” Economists declared that this was a human tragedy, not an economic one.

But almost a week after the quake, vast swaths of companies are still shut down and millions of people are still not at back at work. There is evidence that all sorts of resources that China needs to continue fueling its double-digit growth—including grains, hydroelectric power and chemicals—are becoming more scarce and more expensive.

Energy, water and food supplies are particular concerns, as is the worry that continuing fear among Chinese workers could drive the most vulnerable aspect of the economy: inflation.

Stock surge

The Journal’s C1 Ahead of the Tape column says stocks are pricey, trading well above where both forecast and trailing earnings ratios historically have been. A separate story on the same page notes that the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up a big 11 percent in the last two months.

Bloomberg reports that energy company profits are masking the pace of declines on the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index. Without them, the declines would be the worst in a decade, it says.

Maguire ousted

Maguire Properties fired its founder and namesake Robert Maguire III as CEO and chairman, the WSJ says. The office-building tycoon’s company has been a dog for years and he made a terribly timed, multibillion-dollar bet on the Orange County office market (heavy with mortgage lenders) late last winter, right as the bubble burst. The board’s moves came after pressure from hedge-fund investors.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.