Afternoon Roundup: Today's Top Stories

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

tocks rose in the first hours of trading thanks to encouraging earning reports from big retail companies like Target (NYS: TGT) and Staples. However, those gains have dissipated as I write this, with the Dow flat, the S&P slightly up, and the Nasdaq down 0.5%. Read more atReuters.

Online retail giant Amazon.com (NAS: AMZN) announced it would begin publishing books in earnest as well as selling them. The company announced its first author would be self-advice writer Timothy Ferriss, known for best-selling books like "The 4-Hour Work Week." Amazon began pushing for this new venture when the company hired editor and agent Laurence Kirshbaum.

The new venture comes as a threat to traditional book publishers and sellers, two groups that have already suffered the aftermath of an online book business. Barnes & Noble (NYS: BKS) has attempted to compete with Amazon with its own e-book reader, while companies like Borders fell out of the race and filed for bankruptcy. Amazon will publish Ferris' book in the spring in hard copy, e-book, and audio book formats. Read more atThe New York Times.

Online games have kicked up their growth a notch and are now a threat to companies that require a gaming console. Games like Rift developed by Trion Worlds have added a million users since its March release. The console makers also have threats from Rovio's Angry Birds and Zynga's Farmville, which have added millions of players and downloads from computers and handheld devices.

However, some of these companies have tried to innovate to keep up with the market. Activision Blizzard (NAS: ATVI) , maker of World of Warcraft, has more than 11 million players. Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) is trying to make its console more appealing, the company was able to boost sales of its Xbox by adding the motion sensor and now plans to add voice control by December. Electronic Arts (NAS: ERTS) bought Playfish and PopCap, two online social gaming developers, to enter the online market. Read more atBloomberg. 

, the second largest brewer in the world, has made a bid of $9.97 billion for Australian brewery Foster's Group. But the bid came with contention, considering it was made as an off-market cash offer to shareholders. The price was the same as one rejected by the Foster's board in June. The offer is the largest since Heineken bought Mexican brewer Femsa this year marking a consolidation in the beer industry.

SABMiller's hostile bid comes after allegedly trying to deal with the Foster's board with no result. Foster's has been seen as a takeover target for a while, raising speculations whether other bidders may come up. Read more atThe Wall Street Journal.

Major banks in Europe criticized the Franco-German plan to implement a levy on financial transactions that would be passed on to their customers. The Association for Financial Markets in Europe, which includes Deutsche Bank (NYS: DB) and BNP Paribas, said financial institutions should not be seen as a source of tax revenue. Opposition to the plan came mainly from the U.K. and Sweden, which argue that such a plan would have no positive effect unless implemented worldwide. The U.K. financial system also said that banks could move their locations in order to avoid the levy. Read more atBloomberg. 

So there you have it, the top financial stories for this afternoon. If you are interested in getting all the news and commentary on these stocks, sign up to My Watchlisthere -- it's free!

At the time this article was published Michelle Zayed doesn't own any stocks mentioned.The Motley Fool owns shares of Activision Blizzard and Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of and has written calls on Activision Blizzard.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Activision Blizzard, Amazon.com, and Microsoft; creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft; and creating a synthetic long position in Activision Blizzard. 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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