PRESS DIGEST - Wall Street Journal - July 17

July 17 Thu Jul 17, 2014 1:07am EDT

July 17 (Reuters) - The following are the top stories in the Wall Street Journal. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.

* Israel agreed to a five-hour cease-fire on Thursday to allow aid into Gaza as the country came under pressure over mounting civilian casualties that included four Palestinian boys killed as they played on a beach. At the same time, officials warned that the chances of a ground invasion of Gaza are very high and growing with each day that militants keep firing rockets into Israel. (on.wsj.com/1jzWlWx)

* After almost a decade of heated political debate, Australia has become the world's first developed nation to repeal carbon laws that put a price on greenhouse gas emissions. (on.wsj.com/WcXOrx)

* The Obama administration escalated its sanctions against Russia over its alleged interference in Ukraine, imposing restrictions on the Russian state-controlled oil giant Rosneft and other top firms. (on.wsj.com/Wc8uq9)

* Vertex Pharmaceuticals' $300,000-a-year cystic-fibrosis drug has sparked a legal battle in Arkansas, illustrating the dilemma faced by cash-strapped government insurance programs. (on.wsj.com/1nyBPk8)

* Time Warner rejected an $80 billion offer made by Rupert Murdoch's Twenty-First Century Fox Inc that would have united the media giants. (on.wsj.com/1pbBsyP)

* The retail sector continues to confound billionaire investor Warren Buffett and his Berkshire Hathaway partner Charlie Munger, who have bemoaned their bad luck in retail investing for years. (on.wsj.com/1jA2DWi)

* Bank of America Corp and the Justice Department remain far apart on a possible mortgage-securities settlement even though the bank offered $13 billion to resolve the civil probe. The bank on Wednesday announced it had reached a $650 million settlement in a mortgage-securities lawsuit brought by American International Group Inc. (on.wsj.com/WiU73U)

* Low interest rates are continuing to pressure banks at a time when lending activity is picking up. U.S. Bancorp and PNC Financial Services Group Inc the two largest U.S. regional banks by assets, saw a key measure of lending profitability decline in the second quarter, due in part to low rates. (on.wsj.com/UdkmXE) (Compiled by Supriya Kurane in Bangalore)