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Economic Highlights

(This is Mark Vickery covering for Sheraz Mian for the remainder of the week.)

The Fed is like EF Hutton because: "When (it) talks… people listen." You'll forgive the dated reference of the financial services firm now owned by Morgan Stanley (MS) and Citicorp (C), but the comparison holds. Fed presidents are appearing later today to report on and discuss various elements of the economy, including still-Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Bernanke is scheduled to address an audience at the American Economic Association in Philadelphia at 2:30pm Eastern today. He'll also engage in a question and answer session after his presentation. In Baltimore, Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker will give a speech on the outlook for the economy in 2014 and beyond.

Likely to be in the mix is the slowing economic growth in China, both in services and manufacturing. The primary growth engine of the global market has begun to "run out of steam," according to billionaire investor George Soros. China does not seem to be in danger of going into contraction, but its exceptionally strong expansion phase appears to be on the wane, at least for now. Let's see what our top economists have to say about what we should expect from this.

Here at home, we're starting to get December Auto Sales numbers this morning. Overall, U.S. auto sales are expected to grow 5.2% year over year. Chrysler -- soon to be fully owned by Fiat (FIATY) -- and Hyundai already reported decent year-over-year gains, and Ford (F) and GM (GM) are scheduled to post their December numbers later today.

Winter storms this early January are wreaking havoc on people's travel plans. More than 2300 flights have been cancelled at this tail end of holiday-season travel, and nearly 4000 flights have been delayed. May everyone find their way back home safely and have a wonderful weekend.

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