February 1, 2008 / 6:07 AM / 11 years ago

PRESS DIGEST - Wall Street Journal - Feb 1

Feb 1 (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.

* Motorola Inc MOT.N is considering spinning off or selling its flagship handset business. The announcement comes amid deepening woes at its cellphone unit and as Carl Icahn is preparing a new proxy campaign to win board seats. Shares rose more than 10 percent after hours.

* Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama set aside differences and threw darts at the Republicans in their first one-on-one debate. Domestic issues took center stage, and moderators spent much of the time trying to tease out differences between the candidates. Obama raised $32 million in January.

* U.S. President George W. Bush took office with budget surpluses projected well into the future. But it’s almost certain that when he exits, he’ll leave behind deficits and debt that will sharply constrain his successor.

* Merrill Lynch & Co Inc MER.N has bought back from Springfield, Massachusetts, three securities backed by mortgages that rapidly collapsed in value during the credit crisis.

* Merck & Co (MRK.N) is the subject of a federal grand-jury investigation into its sales and marketing practices for painkiller Vioxx.

* Google Inc’s (GOOG.O) net rose 17 percent on surging online-ad sales, but the results fell short of Wall Street’s expectations amid slower growth in consumer clicks on its ads and higher fees paid to partners. Shares fell 7 percent after hours.

* Harry Macklowe has reached a tentative agreement with his lender to turn over effective control of seven Manhattan office buildings he acquired less than a year ago for $7.2 billion. Macklowe borrowed heavily from Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) to acquire the buildings early last year.

* MBIA Inc (MBI.N) posted a huge loss, but the bond insurer said it was working to preserve its credit rating. Still, things could get worse and the fate of insurers is shaping up as a crucial chapter in the unfolding financial crisis.

* Wyeth WYE.N reported profit of $1.02 billion but said it is re-evaluating its business model. Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY.N) had a loss and took a charge tied to the credit crunch.

* Anheuser-Busch Cos Inc’s (BUD.N) talks with InBev INTB.BR over a possible merger have become more serious. The U.S. brewer’s profit rose 12 percent.

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