Today's Top Stories in the Financial World

At The Motley Fool, we know our readers like to be informed. So we have scouted out today's most relevant news items and brought them to you all in one page. We hope you find this midday edition informative and useful.

Raters look into U.S. debt rating
With bipartisan bickering over spending cuts and raising the debt ceiling in the background, Moody's Rating Agency announced it is looking into the country's credit rating, with the possibility of lowering it; temporary default in interest payments would make an Aaa rating inappropriate.

Any default could be potentially devastating for the economy, which would raise interest rates and make bonds harder to sell. Though there is debate among raters on whether raising the debt ceiling would be enough to maintain the top-notch rating, most agencies see this as the first step, in addition to cutting spending. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. 

JPMorgan beats estimates
Despite speculation that major U.S. banks would have a hard time raising revenue, JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) was able to beat estimates with a 13% increase in net income. Despite a difficult market, the second-largest U.S. bank saw a 49% increase in investment-banking profit. In addition, most customers paid their credit cards off on time.

Though the growth was impressive, executives say revenue was curtailed by the European debt crisis and continuously lower home prices. Estimates of second-quarter profit for Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) are $3.08 billion, and Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC  ) could announce $3.75 billion when it releases reports July 19. Better earnings could help the market gain confidence despite the uncertainty surrounding banks and the debt market. Read more at Bloomberg.

Amazon's new tablet aimed at e-commerce
People familiar with the matter say Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) is working on launching a tablet based on Google's Android operating system. Analysts say Amazon could launch the tablet mainly to enhance its core business. A tablet from the company would give customers access to many of its products, including the online bookstore and its video streaming service. Experts say Motorola Mobility's (NYSE: MMI  ) Xoom and Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) Playbook have had trouble appealing to customers mainly because they don't have unique content. In contrast, Apple's iPad offers iTunes. Read more at Reuters.

ConocoPhillips splits in two
Oil giant ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP  ) said it would divide its refining and production sections into two publicly traded companies. This goes against the common trend in the industry of "bigger is better." The reason for the split, the company said, was to add value to shareholders. With the refining business being much more expensive and less profitable, oil companies have been looking for an alternative way to produce value from the business segment. The split will be completed in the middle of next year, closing with the retirement of chief executive Jim Mulva.

The new independent refinery will become the largest in the U.S., surpassing Valero with a capacity of 2.4 million barrels. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

So there you have it -- the top financial stories for this afternoon. Check Fool.com throughout the day for commentary on these and other stories. Also, follow us on Twitter, on Facebook, or through our email digests.

Michelle Zayed owns no shares of companies mentioned in the story. The Motley Fool owns shares of JPMorgan Chase, Apple, and Google. The Fool owns shares of and has opened a short position on Bank of America. The Fool owns shares of and has created a ratio put spread position on Wells Fargo. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Amazon.com, Google, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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