Feb 4 (Reuters) - The following were the top stories in The Wall Street Journal on Monday. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.
* Google Inc (GOOG.O) Chief Executive Eric Schmidt offered Yahoo Inc YHOO.O CEO Jerry Yang help in any effort to thwart Microsoft Corp’s (MSFT.O) unsolicited $44.6 billion bid. Though regulatory concerns make a bid by Google unlikely, it could play a role in bids by others. Microsoft’s likely first focus if the deal goes through will be ad-delivery systems, where it is trying to battle Google.
* On the eve of Tuesday’s near-national contest for each party’s presidential nominee, Democrat Hillary Clinton has lost much of her longtime polling lead over Barack Obama both nationally and in grand prize California, while Republican John McCain has surged ahead for a potentially decisive edge.
* Three of Wall Street’s biggest investment banks — Citigroup Inc (C.N), J.P. Morgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and Morgan Stanley (MS.N) — plan to limit financing of coal-fired power plants over concerns about the costs of any future emission-cap systems.
* Freddie Mac FRE.N, looking to expand its role in financing apartment buildings, is working on a proposal that it create and sell bonds backed by multifamily mortgages, instead of keeping the loans it buys.
* Analysts forecast Standard & Poor’s 500 profits will rise 2.6 percent in the first quarter and 3.5 percent in the second, but jump 20 percent and 50 percent in the year’s last two quarters.
* A French government probe into Societe Generale SA’s (SOGN.PA) rogue-trading scandal is expected to report Monday that control over the bank’s trading operations was too lax, according to a person familiar with the report, putting renewed pressure on Chairman Daniel Bouton to explain how the bank lost 4.9 billion euros ($7.25 billion).
* Two senior Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) bankers are teaming up to run a new $2 billion private-equity fund aimed at landing big deals in China. Richard Ong, Goldman’s co-head of investment banking in Asia excluding Japan, plans to work with Goldman’s China partner, Fang Fenglei, on the new venture, called the Hopu Fund, according to people familiar with the situation.
* A shutoff of natural-gas exports from Central Asia is causing deep concern in the European Union over the viability of a pipeline project that would rely on gas from the region to cut Europe’s dependence on Russia.
* The prospect of a settlement in the three-month strike by film and television writers is setting off a scramble to restart Hollywood’s stalled production engine and get key TV series back on the air quickly.
* Drug-coated stents — tiny scaffolds that prop open arteries clogged by heart disease — had 62 percent of the stent market in December, matching the three previous months but far below their share as recently as 2006.
* A Korean court’s guilty verdict against Lone Star Funds and its top executive in South Korea, for manipulating the stock price of Korea Exchange Bank (KEB) 004940.KS credit-card unit, complicates a plan by the private-equity firm to sell KEB to HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA.L).
* The New York Giants shattered New England’s unbeaten season, defeating the Patriots 17-14 in one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history. It was the Giants’ 11th straight victory on the road and the first time the Patriots tasted defeat in more than a year.