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Market Preview: Up for Debate

As for Thursday's scheduled news, the earnings docket is thin once again, featuring just a few names like International Speedway (ISCA), Robbins & Meyers (RBN), and Sycamore Networks (SCMR).

The economic calendar includes the Challenger layoffs report for September at 7 a.m. ET; weekly initial and continuing jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. ET; factory orders for August at 10 a.m. ET; and the release of the minutes of the Sept. 12-13 meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee at 2 p.m. ET, which will provide some color on what kind of debate went into the launch of QE3.

While the claims and layoffs data will provide more insight into the employment picture ahead of the Friday's big September jobs report, the FOMC minutes may be more of a market mover, providing some insight into how Ben Bernanke & Co. decided to be so aggressive about their accommodation.

Paul Ashworth, chief North America economist at Capital Economics, is expecting the non-voting hawks within the Fed will have had their say about the decision. He's also wondering if buying more government bonds, rather than mortgage-backed ones, was an option on the table.

"It will be interesting to see if there was a discussion about whether to buy more Treasury securities too, and/or if those purchases could be added once Operation Twist finishes at year-end," he said.

The internal debate about the outlook for inflation was also on Ashworth's mind.

"The Fed also extended its conditional commitment to leave its policy rate unchanged until at least mid-2015, from the previous late 2014," he explained. "And in another change, the statement noted that the FOMC would be willing to leave rates at near-zero for 'a considerable time', even once the recovery strengthens. This implies the FOMC is now willing to let inflation run above target temporarily in order to bring the unemployment rate down. The hawks will presumably have argued vigorously that such a shift risked the inflation-fighting credibility that the Fed had built up over the past 30 years. "

Thursday also brings central bank news from across the pond with the European Central Bank's rate decision and the conclusion of the Bank of England's monthly policy meeting. Dales is expecting few fireworks on either front.
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