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PRESS DIGEST - Wall Street Journal - Dec 23

Dec 23 (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.

* Monday is the final day for consumers to get health coverage that takes effect on Jan. 1, leaving thousands racing to sign up and insurers trying to figure out whether the law will work in the way they had hoped. ()

* Lenders are leery of dealing with virtual-currency companies because of concerns that the businesses could run afoul of anti-money-laundering laws or be involved in illegal activities. ()

* Tough restrictions, such as the Volcker rule, which prohibits banks from owning more than 3 percent of a hedge fund or private equity portfolio, excluded many real-estate loans, allowing Wall Street firms to continue making concentrated bets with their own capital. ()

* Money managers and analysts say they are beginning to think the Federal Reserve is succeeding in restoring economic growth. Some analysts now think the economy is on the mend, many money managers share the view that, while 2014 probably won't match 2013, indexes probably will finish the year with gains. That helps explain why stocks surged last week despite the announcement of stimulus cuts. ()

* Gasoline futures are climbing in response to signs of unseasonably strong demand for the fuel. Prices surged 5.9 percent last week to a three-month high after the U.S. Energy

* Boeing Co's largest union plans to hold a vote on a contract that would guarantee that the planned 777X jetliner would be assembled at unionized facilities in Washington state.

* The U.S. Transportation Department doesn't plan to change regulations to better protect underground pipelines from riverbed erosion, a year after Congress ordered it to evaluate its policies in the wake of pipeline breaks that spilled hazardous liquids into waterways. ()

* As much as a third of all Internet sales gets returned, according to retail consultancy Kurt Salmon. And the tide of goods flowing back to retailers is rising. Shipper United Parcel Service Inc expects returns to jump 15 percent this season from last year, making them a significant and growing cost for retailers. ()

* YRC Worldwide Inc is close to raising funds to cover upcoming debt payments as the trucking company works to persuade employees to extend their labor contracts for five years, people familiar with the matter said. ()

* Investment firm Starboard Value LP which has taken a 5.6 percent stake in Darden Restaurants Inc thinks the company's move to cast off Red Lobster falls short of what is needed to boost Darden's shares. ()

* A growing number of Asian textile manufacturers setting up production in the U.S. Southeast to save money as salaries, energy and other costs rise at home. As costs continue to increase in China, textile manufacturers can ship yarn to manufacturers in Central America, which, unlike companies in China, can send finished clothes duty-free to the United States.

* Hedge-fund firm Paulson & Co sold its Washington Mutual Inc bank bonds last week following a lawsuit seeking billions of dollars from the thrift's 2008 failure, according to people familiar with the move. The giant hedge fund, run by billionaire John Paulson, exited after JPMorgan Chase, which bought the banking operations of Washington Mutual, filed a suit last week against the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. ()