March 24, 2008 / 5:45 AM / 11 years ago

PRESS DIGEST - Wall Street Journal - March 24

March 24 (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.

* The crisis in the U.S. housing market, turmoil on Wall Street and safety scares involving food, drugs and toys are driving both political parties to reconsider how much companies and markets should be relied upon to police themselves. The new climate has some business groups girding for battle against what they fear could be onerous new requirements.

* Former executives of Countrywide Financial Corp CFC.N are launching an investment firm backed by BlackRock Inc (BLK.N) to buy distressed mortgages.

* The skidding dollar is making U.S. exports attractive, providing a bright spot amid the gloomy economic news. Over the past six quarters, exports have contributed, on average, nearly one percentage point to economic growth measured at an annual rate, while the housing slump has subtracted just over a percentage point on average during the same period.

* Investors looking for financials to be the sector that leads the market higher for any extended period may be disappointed. While the U.S. Federal Reserve’s recent interest-rate reductions should help support profits at financial companies, those other sources of earnings growth aren’t likely to provide much lift in the next several years.

* Heavily armed police have been patrolling in Chengdu, the leafy, usually calm capital of Sichuan province, in a significant show of force and concern by the Chinese government about the spread of unrest from neighboring Tibet.

* As the world grows more populous, it also is growing more prosperous, leading to increased demand on resources and stoking old fears that efforts to increase production won’t be able to keep up.

* Marathon Acquisition Corp MAQ.A is expected to acquire a majority stake in Global Ship Lease Inc in a deal valuing the container-ship operator’s equity at about $500 million.

* A surge of attacks in Iraq killed at least 57, underscoring the resilience of extremist groups as the war enters its sixth year and the U.S. death toll reaches 4,000.

* The Clinton campaign is relying on its argument that victories in big states such as California and Ohio make Sen. Hillary Clinton a stronger candidate to defeat presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain.

* Privately held real estate company Lightstone Group’s purchase of the Extended Stay Hotel chain is hitting a snag as the routine credit extensions of 2007 have become expensive and protracted in 2008.

* The debate over biofuels may shift from whether they are good or bad to the more difficult question of how to make sure their production keeps growing — without wreaking economic and environmental havoc.

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