January 30, 2009 / 5:11 AM / 10 years ago

PRESS DIGEST - Wall Street Journal - Jan 30

Jan 30 (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.

* Top economic officials are discussing new efforts to help banks while trying to mitigate the cost to taxpayers. President Obama stepped up his rhetorical attacks on the same banks his officials are planning to aid, calling Wall Street bonuses “shameful.”

* Some ex-Merrill executives invested money with Madoff, making them the highest-level victims known of his alleged scheme.

* Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) said profit rose 9 percent and sales surged 18 percent in the fourth quarter as the Internet giant used its pricing muscle to lure shoppers.

* Dell Inc DELL.O, aiming to rev up sales as its mainstay personal-computer business struggles in the recession, is preparing a move into cellphones as early as next month, said people familiar with the matter.

* Durable goods orders slumped 2.6 percent in December for the fifth month in a row. Meanwhile, sales of new homes sank nearly 15 percent.

* Morgan Stanley (MS.N) is considering laying off up to 5 percent of its 47,000 employees as markets continue to fall and investment-banking and trading businesses remain sluggish.

* The Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) executive who succeeded John Thain last week was met with pointed questions about compensation as he urged employees to stay focused on clients amid turbulence at the Charlotte, North Carolina bank.

* Defaults on a popular form of mortgage that gave home buyers a choice of how much to pay each month are rising and could rival those on subprime loans, potentially causing more trouble for investors and banks.

* Fannie Mae FNM.N FNM.P has reached an agreement to work with one of its former critics, Neighborhood Assistance Corp of America, to prevent foreclosures by reworking home mortgages to make them easier to afford.

* Four more U.S. airlines reported fourth-quarter losses, capping a tough year, but the industry is hoping that new fees, higher ticket prices and lower fuel bills will bring improved results in 2009.

* The Senate began jockeying over details of its nearly $900 billion economic-stimulus plan, amid bipartisan calls to ensure that jobs created by the measure go to American workers, not foreign companies or illegal immigrants.

* The Senate voted to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, one in a series of early steps Congress is taking on health care.

* The International Monetary Fund is finalizing a $100 billion loan from Japan and is considering issuing bonds for the first time in its history, as part of an effort to double the financial resources it has to fight the deepening global recession.

* A winter storm that knocked out power to more than 1.3 million homes and businesses from Arkansas to Ohio is likely to increase state inquiries into utilities’ maintenance practices.

* The European Commission took a closer look at a proposed German law that would give tax advantages to venture-capital companies and individuals investing in certain companies.

* Japan’s recession showed signs of deepening, with new data showing a record plunge in industrial production, a jump in unemployment and slowing price increases.

* The economic downturn derailed Eastman Kodak Co’s EK.N turnaround as consumers slashed purchases of its traditional film and new digital cameras in the crucial holiday season, leading to a net loss and plans for 3,500 to 4,500 more layoffs.

* Ford Motor Co (F.N) reported a fourth-quarter loss of $5.9 billion, raising fresh questions about how long the auto maker can stay afloat without a government bailout.

* Mining company Xstrata PLC XTA.L unveiled details of a $5.9 billion rights offering aimed at paying down some of its hefty debt load amid worries about the toll the global economic slump is taking on the industry.

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