Afternoon Roundup: Today's Top Stories

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 what some see as a tightening of vigilance by the government, the U.S. Department of Labor requested records of all employees in the past two years at PulteGroup (NYS: PHM) , Lennar (NYS: LEN) , D.R. Horton (NYS: DHI) and KB Home (NYS: KBH) . The department is looking into what seems to be a violation of labor rights concerning underpaying and unsafe working conditions. The builders must provide all the names, social security numbers, addresses, pay rate, and number of hours worked for these employees.

Critics of the probe said the government may be overstepping boundaries by asking for the records. Others said that examining the subcontractors, which are the lifeline of these companies, could hurt the business considerably. In most states, builders are not responsible for violations of workers' rights done by their subcontractors. Read more atThe Wall Street Journal.

Carol Bartz's departure from Yahoo! (NAS: YHOO) on Sept. 6 has made the company a buyout target for companies from Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) to Alibaba Group Holding. Bartz left after less than three years at the top position, leaving the company valued at $16 billion. The company used to be worth nearly $80 billion but has lost value after giving up advertising revenue to Google and Facebook. The lower value could make an acquisition worthwhile, but the company may decide to sell stakes in Alibaba Group and Yahoo! Japan rather than sell the company as a whole. After the Bartz firing, the stock price rose 5.4% yesterday. Read more atBloomberg.

The U.S. seems to have entered a vicious cycle that could lead to a second demise of the country's economy. Rising fears from consumers makes them hold back on spending, which leads to less hiring and therefore less spending. Recent data shows that job growth levels over the past 50 years has either led to a recession or is the immediate aftermath of one. Experts have set a range between a 25% and 40% chance of the country falling in to a double-dip recession, all saying they are extremely hard to predict. But the continuing pressure from Europe's debt crisis and a weak economy that's unable to keep with population growth paint a grim future. Read more atThe New York Times.

(NYS: BP) announced that one of its first wells drilled after last year's Deepwater Horizon disaster has yielded oil in a previously untested area. The company estimates the field could hold around 4 billion barrels of oil and natural gas. The discovery comes as CEO Bob Dudley was under pressure to find ways to expand the holdings. BHP Billiton drilled the well on BP's behalf. The discovery comes after Chevron announced a potentially big finding in another field in the area where BP is also a partner. Last week, BP's hopes of exploration in the Russian Arctic in cooperation with OAO Rosneft were crushed when ExxonMobil announced a tie up with the Russian company. Read more atThe Wall Street Journal.

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 for My Watchlisthere-- it's free!

At the time thisarticle was published Michelle Zayed doesn't own any stocks mentioned.The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft and Yahoo!.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Yahoo! and Microsoft.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. 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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