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Jan 18 (Reuters) - The following were the top stories in The Wall Street Journal on Friday. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.
* ACA Financial Guaranty Corp's struggle to pay off $60 billion of insurance contracts shows how Wall Street turmoil is denting firms' ability to make good on their many trades with one another. At the center of these concerns: the vast, complex arena of credit-default swaps. * U.S. President George W. Bush is expected to propose rebates for taxpayers and tax breaks for businesses, while Nancy Pelosi and congressional leaders may wrap up their plan the week of the State of the Union. Hillary Clinton added a $40 billion tax rebate to her $70 billion economic proposal.
* With mortgage-related losses at big banks and brokerages now topping $100 billion, Merrill Lynch & Co Inc MER.N, Citigroup Inc (C.N) and other banks have been forced to focus their energies on sometimes less-profitable but steadier businesses.
* The Directors Guild of America reached a tentative three-year deal with the major Hollywood studios, adding to pressure on striking screenwriters to either accept a similar deal or prolong their 11-week strike, possibly for months.
* General Motors Corp (GM.N) could see "significant" profit increases in two to three years, helped by a new labor pact and overseas sales, Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner said.
* Retailers are cutting back on store openings and inventory as sales slide, in what may be the industry's worst slump in 17 years.
* Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) shareholder Chieftain called for the ouster of the cable company's chief executive officer as part of a campaign to boost Comcast stock.
* NYSE Euronext NYX.N agreed to buy the American Stock Exchange (Amex) for $260 million in stock plus proceeds expected from the sale of its smaller rival's headquarters.
* Advanced Micro Devices Inc AMD.N posted a massive loss on $1.68 billion in charges from its purchase of ATI Technologies but nearly broke even on an operating basis.
* Washington Mutual Inc (WM.N), a huge thrift being battered by the mortgage meltdown, reported a $1.87 billion loss in the fourth quarter that was fueled by a sharp increase in the reserve for loan-related losses.