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December 18, 2013  Wed 3:16 AM CT

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The Federal Reserve dominates today's economic calendar.

The central bank will release its monetary-policy announcement at 2 p.m. ET, with attention focusing on officials' plans to reduce bond purchases. There is no consensus about what will happen, though such a reduction has been expected for months.

The Commerce Department will also release housing starts and building permits for November at 8:30 a.m. ET. Economists expect a reading of 950,000 for starts and 983,000 for permits. Both figures are annualized.

Crude-oil inventories also come out at 10:30 a.m. ET. In addition to the economic numbers, FedEx, General Mills, and Lennar report quarterly results before the opening bell. Oracle and Paychex follow in the afternoon.

Tomorrow is the last busy day of economic data before Christmas, featuring initial jobless claims, the Philadelphia Fed's regional index, and existing home sales. Accenture, ConAgra, Carnival, Darden Restaurants, KB Home, and Rite Aid report in the morning, followed by Nike, RedHat, and Cintas in the afternoon.
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