Nov 15 (Reuters) - The following were the top stories in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.
* Merrill Lynch & Co Inc's MER.N choice of John Thain, head of NYSE Euronext NYX.N, as its new chief executive officer signals that the industry is recognizing the need for a new phase of Wall Street leadership: the CEO as plumber and risk manager.
* The U.S. House passed a $50 billion Iraq war bill that sets a goal of ending combat by December 2008. The Senate is unlikely to pass the measure and U.S. President George W. Bush has vowed to veto it.
* Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N) formed a special board committee to study strategic options, including mergers. Hedge fund Pardus Capital Management LP called for a merger with UAL Corp UAUA.O, parent of United Airlines.
* Bear Stearns Cos Inc's BSC.N double dose of bad news -- a $1.2 billion write-down and accusations of improper mortgage securities trading -- underscores the rough shoals facing the firm.
* UBS AG UBSN.VX could face fourth-quarter write-downs of up to $7.11 billion, while Citigroup Inc (C.N) may incur more pain, analysts project.
* Pressure is mounting on Cerberus Capital Management LP [CBS.UL] and General Motors Corp (GM.N) to prod GMAC Financial Services into fixing its ailing mortgage unit, as the credit-market shakeout ripples beyond the lending industry.
* Economists expect the credit crunch weighing on U.S. markets will take some time to play out, a WSJ.com survey found. But confidence in the U.S. Federal Reserve's ability to navigate the rough economic waters remains high.
* Iraqi officials emphasized the need to improve the country's infrastructure and basic services amid a relative lull in violence.
* United Rentals Inc (URI.N) indicated its $7 billion buyout offer from Cerberus is beginning to unravel, in a sign of continued trouble in the leveraged-buyout debt market.
* The new heart-attack warning on the label of GlaxoSmithKline Plc's (GSK.L) (GSK.N) once-blockbuster diabetes drug Avandia will likely add to the company's challenge in marketing a product shadowed by a serious safety question.
* Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is putting his biggest mark yet on the central bank with a set of measures to increase transparency and, in effect, downgrade his own influence to promote the collective view of his Fed colleagues.
* The United Auto Workers union said its members at Ford Motor Co (F.N) ratified a new labor agreement that will allow the auto maker to shift its retiree health-care obligations to a union-run trust and pay new employees a lower wage.
* The euro zone's economy bounced back in the third quarter, growing more rapidly than expected, according to official data released yesterday, but declining business and consumer confidence suggest a less rosy outlook.