Traders will have a full slate to deal with Thursday, as Merrill Lynch ( MER) leads another round of financial-sector earnings and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks in Washington. Quarterly reports from Bank of New York ( BK), BB&T ( BBT), CIT ( CIT), Washington Mutual ( WM) and TD Ameritrade ( AMTD), among others, are also due. Other notables set to post numbers are IBM ( IBM), Advanced Micro Devices ( AMD), Continental ( CAL), Novartis ( NVS) and Seagate ( STX). Also, Applied Materials ( AMAT) will host an analyst day. The economic news will be highlighted by a speech coming from Fed chief Bernanke, who will be discussing the economic outlook at the House of Representatives. Also planned for release are data on December housing starts from the Census Bureau, initial jobless claims from the Labor Department and the Philadelphia Fed's monthly index. On TheStreet.com, David Peltier will tell you whether you should buy Hillenbrand Industries ( HB), and Melissa Davis will examine what went wrong for a cholesterol-lowering drug from Schering-Plough ( SGP) and Merck ( MRK).