Dec 4 (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.
* U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Beijing on Wednesday was long intended to boost trade but instead has become an urgent diplomatic mission. ()
* Federal regulators are expected next week to approve a toughened version of the so-called Volcker rule, opening a new phase of stricter oversight for Wall Street. ()
* Forget Internet IPOs: One of the best investments of the past couple of years was a bankrupt airline.
* Big banks have been retrenching from the mortgage business recently, leaving smaller players to pick up larger chunks of business. The midsize and smaller players have grown despite tightening their underwriting standards, much like larger banks have since the financial crisis. But the smaller banks’ capital rules aren’t as stringent as those that make mortgages a costly enterprise for the biggest firms. ()
* European antitrust authorities are set to hit several banks with heavy fines as soon as Wednesday for allegedly colluding to rig interbank lending rates, people familiar with the matter said. ()
* Former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski is set for parole early next year following his 2005 criminal conviction and imprisonment for looting the company. ()
* Apparel chains have heavy inventory loads, raising concern their weak Thanksgiving showing will force bigger markdowns that could hurt fourth-quarter profits. ()
* November U.S. auto sales ran at their strongest pace in more than six years, aided by sales promotions, but there were also signs that competitive pressure is ratcheting up on Detroit’s auto makers. ()