Manufacturing, home sales on slate


Today's economic calendar focuses on manufacturing and home sales, though political news may continue to dominate sentiment.

The Chicago Federal Reserve will release its purchasing managers index of regional activity at 9:45 a.m. ET. Economists expect a reading of 51, up from 50.4 in November. Although the report is a gauge of business activity, it seldom affects broader sentiment because of its narrow geographical focus. Numbers above 50 indicate expansion while those below 50 signal contraction.

November pending home sales follow at 10 a.m. ET. Economists expect an increase of 1 percent, down from 5.2 percent in October.

The Energy Department will report weekly natural-gas inventories at 10:30 a.m. ET, followed by crude-oil inventories half an hour later.

Despite the data, fiscal-cliff developments in Washington could remain the most important catalyst as politicians attempt to avert tax increases and spending cuts at year's end. Signs of resolution will likely be interpreted bullishly, while indications of an impasse could trigger selling.

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