Good morning. Here's what you need to know.Asian markets were mostly higher in overnight trading. Japan's Nikkei closed up 2.29%; Hong Kong's Hang Seng, 0.29%; and Korea's KOSPI, 1.01%. European markets were mostly lower, but U.S. futures were pointing north. It's a light week of economic data, but economists continue to speculate on whether the Fed will taper its asset purchasing program in December or if it will wait until next year. Citing interviews and public statements by Fed officials, the New York Times' Binyamin Appelbaum reports that the taper is not expected until next year. On the other hand, Deutsche Bank's Joe LaVorgna wrote clients, "Regarding the Fed, last Friday’s employment report reinforces our previous view that the Fed will begin QE tapering in December." In China, consumer prices grew 3% in November, slightly below expectations for a 3.1% rise. Producer prices fell 1.4%, missing expectations for a 1.5% drop. Meanwhile, reforms in the country continue, with China introducing the inter-bank negotiable certificate of deposits on Saturday. The reform "can help banks secure a more stable funding source and offer liquid and safer underlying securities for investment products targeting individual investors," wrote Societe Generale's Wei Yao. And in another completely different reform, Chinese officials can no longer eat extravagant meals of shark fin and bird's nest soup on business trips. Japan's growth slowed in Q3, with GDP expanding an annualized 1.1% on the quarter, revised down from 1.9%. "Weaker-than-estimated business spending contributed to the revision to the GDP figures, indicating that Japan Inc. is yet to be convinced that Abenomics will trigger a prolonged economic revival," reports Reuters' Keiko Ujikane. We won't have new economic data today in the U.S., but we will see three Fed speeches that may further illuminate where officials stand on monetary policy. Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker will speak in Charlotte, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard will speak on the economy in St. Louis, and Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher will speak in Chicago on the economy and monetary policy. Bitcoin's weekend of pain is over, and the digital currency has staged a comeback. Bitcoin crashed on Friday and Saturday, at one point falling from $1100 to below $600 on poor Bitcoin-related news out of China. Now the cryptocurrency is above $900 again. Still, not everyone is buying the Bitcoin hype. "It’s not a currency at all, it’s a complete joke," Bill Fleckenstein said in a recent interview. After weeks of protests, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved parliament and called a snap election, Reuters reports. Still, protestors continue to clash with police in an attempt to remove Yingluck from power and "eradicate the influence of her self-exiled brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra," according to the report. Speaking of protestors, demonstrators in Kiev's Independence Square toppled a statue of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin on Sunday. After protestors beat the headless statue with hammers, a poster read, "Yanukovich, you are next!" a reference to the current Ukranian president. Demonstrators have rioted over the government's ties with Russia at the expense of the European Union. The merger of American Airlines and US Airways is expected to be finalized today, creating the world's largest airline. After a lengthy antitrust suit with the Justice Department (and with the Supreme Court declining a challenge), the two are expected to sign merger documents before the bell, CNNMoney's Gregory Wallace reports. Congress could bring Americans a nice gift for the holidays — a budget deal. "Lawmakers and aides are optimistic that negotiators can reach a budget accord and continue to make progress on a farm bill and other measures," reports the Wall Street Journal's Kristina Peterson and Michael R. Crittenden. PRG's Greg Valliere believes the deal will come in the next couple of days, as an "emotionally spent" Congress is willing to take smaller deals to avoid another budget trauma. "The pending 21-month budget deal will soften the sequester (while coming up with offsetting savings), and will greatly reduce the uncertainty over fiscal issues. And, of course, the deficit continues to plunge," Valliere wrote clients.
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