PRESS DIGEST - Wall Street Journal - Dec 26

Wed Dec 26, 2012 1:00am EST

Dec 26 - The following are the top stories in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.

* Washington's budget gridlock is unsettling consumers and businesses, raising the risks that economic growth would be hurt next year no matter what Congress does in the coming days. ()

* Small banks around the country are spending the last days of 2012 trying to assure customers they can be trusted to hold their deposits, as the government's unlimited insurance on certain accounts expires this year. ()

* The Obama administration is considering expanding its mortgage-refinancing programs to include borrowers whose mortgages aren't backed by the government and who owe more than their homes are worth, according to people familiar with the discussions. ()

* ICE Chief Executive Jeffrey Sprecher, whose exchange plans to acquire the NYSE, has some views that challenge the prevailing wisdom and business models of many securities-trading firms. ()

* The holiday shopping season drew to a muted close for many retailers, according to preliminary data, reflecting what some experts said was the slowest growth in spending since 2008. ()

* Venture capitalists are reining in their spending in areas like the consumer Internet following the disappointing stock market performances of recently public Web companies Facebook, Zynga and Groupon. ()

* Herbalife Ltd said it has hired a strategic adviser and will hold an analyst and investor meeting next month in an effort to thwart a wave of criticism reignited by investor William Ackman. ()

* Newsweek ended almost 80 years in print with its issue dated Dec. 31 as it transitions to an online only format, a move that makes it the most widely read magazine yet to give up on the print media. ()

* Netflix said it restored its streaming video service a day after it was hit by an outage as a result of problems at Web service provider Amazon.com. ()

* ConocoPhillips is joining the search for shale gas in China, adding its experience in extracting gas by unconventional means to the challenge of making hydraulic fracturing a viable development approach in China. ()

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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