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.

In an uncharacteristic move, Apple (NAS: AAPL) revealed the new generation of the iPhone -- except it wasn't quite new. The redesign of the device used mostly the same hardware as the iPhone 4, giving consumers what new CEO Tim Cook called the iPhone 4S. The company that has mastered surprise seemed to struggle to get its fans' approval. The iPhone 4S has a faster processor, a better camera, and voice commands, but many of the improvements are already present in most competitors' phones. Many analysts were unimpressed, thinking it could have made a bigger splash with some small tweaks, but were sure the redesigned version would still drag crowds to Apple stores. Investors were also disappointed. The stock price plunged 5% during trading Tuesday and closed 0.6% lower, despite the overall market closing with a gain.

Apple promoted its new operating system, iOS 5 -- which has new abilities to link the company's devices together -- new messaging features, and Siri, a voice command directed personal assistant. Siri is Apple's biggest selling point for the new phone, allowing the device to use voice commands to carry out a variety of tasks like reading text messages aloud, responding back, and even checking the weather. The phone will be sold starting Oct. 14 with contracts from AT&T, Verizon, and the new addition, Sprint. The device will start at $199 for a 16GB model with a two-year contract. The iPhone 4 will still be for sale but for $99 for a 8GB version, and the third generation of iPhones will be given out for free with a two-year contract from AT&T. Read more atThe Wall Street Journalor read the Fool'sroundtable.

Morgan Stanley has been fighting against rumors concerning the exposure of its assets to the European debt crisis. The rumors have created some damage, pulling down the stock price nearly 30% over the last month. They have been mostly spread through market whispers and anonymous blogs, but the bank has been reassuring its largest stakeholders that its risk is not more than that of any other bank today.

Morgan Stanley made some headway in its rumor-fighting campaign after the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, which holds 22% of the bank, announced it fully supports the company. The endorsement helped on Tuesday, pushing the bank's stock up by 12.4%. All banks were helped by word that European officials may recapitalize failing banks. Nonetheless, the banking market has been a bloodbath, with Morgan Stanley down 48.5%, Goldman Sachs (NYS: GS) down 44%, and Bank of America (NYS: BAC) off by 57% for the year. Read more atDealbook.

In a long-awaited move, wholesale retailer Costco (NAS: COST) announced it would be raising its annual membership fees by 10% for about 22 million members. The hike pleased analysts despite the fact that the company failed to meet expected profits for the fourth quarter. The fee increases will become effective Nov. 1 for most U.S. and Canada consumers. The company had not raised fees since 2006. Net income for the fourth quarter was $478 million or $1.08 per share; analysts had expected, on average, $1.10 per share. The company missed projections mainly due to higher-than-anticipated costs for inventory due to inflation. Costco customers will now pay $55 for a one-year membership compared to a $50 fee. BJ Wholesale, which recently went private, raised its fee by $5 in January. Read more atReuters.

With its stock down by 60% for the year, Research In Motion (NAS: RIMM) fails to bring confidence to its investors and maybe even to itself. The company has not carried out a buyback of its stock for the longest period in six years. When a company does a stock buyback, it is seen as a sign that it believes its stock is undervalued compared to what the company is truly worth and thinks of itself as a good investment. RIM has not reported a buyback since July 2010; instead, it has sold some of its shares at least 11 times over that time. In contrast, at least 55 out of 59 of the largest Canadian companies in the S&P/TSX 60 have reported insider purchases since July 2010. The company has hit a slump in its stock, with prices reaching 2005 levels as it deals with increasing smartphone competition from Apple and carriers of Google's (NAS: GOOG) Android system. 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 Research In Motion, Google, Costco Wholesale, Bank of America, and Apple.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Google, Costco Wholesale, and Apple.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. 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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