Daniel Gross

Morning Reading: Iowa Caucus, Yahoo!, Auto Sales

What to watch, courtesy of Yahoo! Finance's Elizabeth Trotta:

Good morning,

U.S. futures are indicating a slightly lower open after stocks jumped Tuesday to kickoff 2012. Mitt Romney won the Iowa Caucus Tuesday night by 8 votes, with Rick Santorum coming in second and Representative Ron Paul of Texas in third. [See: Iowa Result Muddled as Fractured Republicans Fail to Unite]

The focus remains on the December jobs report to be released on Friday. It will follow a string of potentially market moving but not-exactly-predictive data -- the Challenger jobs cuts report, ADP private sector unemployment report, and weekly jobless claims -- on Thursday.

Earlier this morning, the Mortgage Bankers Association said demand for loans to buy homes and refinance mortgages slid 9.6% and 2.5%, respectively, in the final week of 2011, despite a drop in mortgage. [Read: Mortgage demand fell at year end, purchases sag] Factory orders, auto and truck sales are scheduled to be released later today, with expectations that strong December car sales will reflect continued recovery in the auto industry.

In corporate news, AllThingsD reported that Yahoo! is close to naming PayPal President Scott Thompson as its new CEO. [Read: Yahoo! to Name New CEO: AllThingsD Website]

More worth checking out:

* Local Chinese governments mishandled $83 billion in debt, borrowed for public works construction, among other things, according to an audit released by the National Audit Office Wednesday. The report adds to fear that local governments won't be able to repay growing debts. [Read: Chinese audit finds local government debt problems]

* About half of the world's richest 1% live in the United States, according to calculations by World Bank economist Branko Milanovic in his book The Haves and the Have-Nots. With it only requiring $34,000 a year, after taxes, to fall into that category, Milanovic raises questions about how the middle class is and should be defined. [Read: Half the World's Richest Live in the U.S.]

Economic Data:

7 a.m. MBA Mortgage Index: prior -2.6%

10 a.m. Factory Orders: prior -0.4%

2 p.m. Auto Sales: prior 4.36M

2 p.m. Truck Sales: prior 5.98M

Later this week ...

Thursday: Challenger Job Cuts, ADP Employment Change, Initial Jobless Claims, Mortgage Rates, ISM Services Index, Crude Oil Inventories

Friday: December Jobs Report

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