Black Friday Protests at Wal-Mart

Richard Davies
ABC News

Morning Business Memo…

It could get noisy outside your local Wal-Mart. Federal labor officials still have made no decision on a request by the world's largest retailer to stop scheduled protests by a union-backed group on Black Friday outside its stores. Wal-Mart claims the demonstrations organized by OUR Walmart threaten to disrupt its business and intimidate customers and other store workers. OUR Walmart has filed its own claim with the labor board, saying the retailer has attempted to prevent workers from participating in legally protected walkouts. The group is protesting what it says are low wages for Wal-Mart workers, and increases in out-of-pocket costs for their health care.

Yes, the housing market continues to improve. This week's reports on home sales and housing starts confirm the trend. But lending standards by banks are still tough, and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke has said this could hold back the housing recovery. "The standards for getting a mortgage these days are incredibly strict," says Casey Bond of "Eliminate your debt, build good credit save up for that 20 percent down payment," is what consumers are told. But Bond says in many cases these requirements are not enough to qualify you for a mortgage. "Lenders are looking at how much credit is extended to you versus how much of that credit you are using." Lenders look closely at how much money to owe credit card issuers and other lenders. Other factors could also trip you up. For instance, loan processors will contact courts and lawyers to confirm marital status and find out if money is owed by the applicant for child support, alimony, or a court-awarded judgment, which is treated like any other debt and required to be reported on mortgage applications.

European finance ministers are kicking the can down the road. After more than 11 hours of talks that went into the early hours of this morning, officials from the 17 single currency eurozone nations failed to agree to release up to $56 billion of rescue loans for Greece. The money is needed so the Greek government can pay its bills and avoid running out of cash. Germany and other members of the Eurozone are deeply divided over how to handle Greece's debt problems without asking their own citizens to pay more. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras reacted with dismay, saying in a statement today that "Greece has done what it had to and what it had committed to doing," but "our partners, along with the IMF, also must do what they have undertaken."

Hostess Brands says another round of talks with one of its biggest unions failed to reach a deal. The maker of Twinkies, Ho Ho's Wonder Bread and other baked goods plans to go back to federal bankruptcy court today. Hostess wants to go out of business and sell off its brands and other assets.

Federal prosecutors in New York have charged a Wall Street portfolio manager with what they call the most lucrative insider-trading scheme ever. According to court records, a former University of Michigan professor who was working on a clinical trial for a drug to treat Alzheimer's told defendant Matthew Martoma about secret results of the research. When the findings turned negative, US Attorney Preet Bharara said Martoma sold his shares. He called it insider trading on a mind-boggling scale, netting as much as $276 million. Martoma worked for an affiliate of SAC Capital Advisors, run by Steven Cohen, one of Wall Street's best-known investors.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC NEWS Radio