Feb 23 (Reuters) - The following were the top stories in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.
* Libya’s descent into violence rattled global financial markets, sending oil prices surging to their biggest gain in more than two years and driving world stock markets sharply lower.
* The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating potential conflicts of interest in the fast-growing market for buying and selling shares of private companies such as Facebook and Twitter.
* Lawmakers returned to work in several states where labor unions are facing the most direct challenge to their political and financial clout since Ronald Reagan broke the air-traffic controllers union 30 years ago.
* Cisco Systems Inc is facing competition in its biggest business, the $13.6 billion switching unit, as Hewlett-Packard Co and Juniper Networks Inc try to lure customers. As it looks for growth, Cisco named a No. 2 executive to help CEO John Chambers.
* Hewlett-Packard Co’s quarterly profit jumped 16 percent on strong demand from commercial customers but sales declined in two of its biggest businesses: PCs and technology services. Shares slumped in after-hours trading.
* Problems at Wal-Mart Stores Inc have been more severe than management expected and will take time to fix, Chief Executive Mike Duke said as the retail giant reported that same-store sales in the U.S. fell for the second consecutive year.
* Billionaire investor Carl Icahn offered to buy Mentor Graphics Corp for $1.91 billion, less than two weeks after saying the chip-design software company should put itself up for sale.
* Citigroup Inc decided to cut off credit to a fund which funneled money to Bernard Madoff after a one-hour meeting between three Citi officials and Madoff in November 2006, according to a lawsuit unsealed this week.
* Lachlan Murdoch will take over as interim chief executive of Ten Network Holdings Ltd , the Australian broadcaster and media company announced, following a coup in the media company’s share register by scions of local media and mining dynasties late last year.
* Virgin Blue Holdings Ltd reported a 62 percent fall in first-half profit, in line with its own recent guidance, and said the second half is expected to be challenging.
* Home Depot Inc said its fiscal fourth-quarter profit climbed 72 percent thanks largely to sales growth at its U.S. stores, and the home-improvement chain provided 2011 guidance at or above the views it gave in December. (Compiled by Tenzin Pema; Bangalore Equities Newsdesk +91 80 4135 5800; within U.S. +1 646 223 8780)