Afternoon Roundup: Today's Top Stories

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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.

Barclays' profit stumbles
U.K.-based Barclays (NYS: BCS) has joined banking peers in reporting some tough numbers. The bank announced that its first-half net profit fell by 38% as it set aside $1.63 billion to compensate customers who were sold faulty insurance products. The net profit for the year so far is around $2.4 billion, down from $3.95 billion. Profit was also hurt by declining investment banking revenue. The bank has also announced it would be cutting 3,000 jobs this year in an effort to improve profits.

Despite discouraging news, the bank has been able to keep its bad debt in check. According to CEO Bob Diamond, the bank is still on track to a 13% return on equity by 2013. However, the bank has already eliminated 1,400 jobs and will only increase the employment slashing during the second half. Read more atThe Wall Street Journal.

Congress: We have a deal 
After two months of bickering and bipartisan blocking, Congress finally has approved a debt deal that will cut spending by $2.4 trillion or more over a decade. Experts said the impact won't be felt at the beginning, but will probably cause a reduction in growth of 1.5%.

Skeptics remain. The deal may be the path from stimulus into austerity, with cuts in social-benefits programs and the end of the temporary 2% payroll tax cut. As in many European countries, austerity measures have been welcomed by many creditors, though the risk of another recession continues to loom over the country. Read more atBloomberg.

McGraw-Hill in the claws of activist investors
McGraw-Hill
(NYS: MHP) , parent company of the Standard and Poor's ratings agency, is a target in a new wave of activist investors. Hedge fund Jana Partners and a Canadian pension plan announced Monday that they hold a 5.2% stake in the company. This could lead to a push to split the conglomerate. Analysts have suggested the best move is a corporate overhaul of the company, saying the company has generally outperformed in all of its areas except its books business.

The hedge fund's move is in addition to investor campaigns at other companies. Carl Icahn has bid for Clorox (NYS: CLX) in hopes of persuading it to sell itself, and hedge fund Citadel is pressing E*TRADE (NAS: ETFC) to overhaul its board. Read more atDealbook.

Toyota the unstoppable
After a 99% slump in profit due to the Japan earthquake, Toyota (NYS: TM) has raised its full-year net profit target by nearly 40%, predicting a second-half rebound. The company also announced it expects to make up for lost production a month ahead of schedule as it gains ground in the competition to be the largest automaker, battling GM (NYS: GM) and Volkswagen. The positive news shows how Japanese companies have been rebounding from the devastating March earthquake. Honda also raised it profit outlook Monday, while Nissan is expected to be pushed into this trend as well.

Toyota reported a net profit of $15 million for its first fiscal quarter, which ended in June. The profit was boosted by a tax return of $560 million, beating analyst expectations. Read more atThe 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.

At the time this article was published Michelle Zayedowns no shares of any companies mentioned in the story. The Motley Fool owns shares of Clorox.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of General Motors and Clorox. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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