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Today's Morning Brief

Wall Street has all but sewn up a positive 2012, but the major averages are clearly limping to the finish. With worries about the oncoming "fiscal cliff" increasing, the Dow, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq have fallen for three straight sessions and four of the past five.


There are no earnings reports on the calendar for today, but investors will have a number of fresh economic reports to consider, starting with the Labor Department's weekly initial jobless claims at 8:30am ET. Economists are expecting claims of 364,000 for the week ending December 22, compared to 361,000 the prior week. At 10am ET, new home sales for November are seen increasing 3.5% from October levels, to an annual rate of 381,000 units, according to consensus forecasts. Also at 10am ET, we'll get the Conference Board's monthly Consumer Confidence Index, expected to fall to 70.0 for December from November's 73.7.


Toyota (TM) leads our list of stocks to watch, as the automaker agrees to a $1.1 billion settlement of all claims related to unintended acceleration and the accompanying recalls back in 2009 and 2010. The settlement must still be approved by a judge, who is expected to review it tomorrow.


Amazon.com (AMZN) remains on top of an online shopping satisfaction survey for the eighth consecutive year. The annual ForeSee survey ranked Amazon with a score of 88 out of 100, with L.L. Bean coming in second at 85. J.C. Penney had the biggest year-to-year drop, while last place was shared by Gilt.com and Fingerhut.com.


Time Warner Cable (TWC) is reportedly giving low-rated networks a take-it-or-leave-it offer of $0 to be carried on its systems, according to the New York Post. Sources also say TWC is pressuring smaller channels not to provide their shows for free online.


Nokia's (NOK) new Lumia phones are already being sold at a discount or being provided for free at some mobile carriers, according to the Wall Street Journal. That could hurt Nokia, which has been betting on the success of the Lumia line to stem years of red ink.


BCD Semiconductor (BCDS) will be bought by rival chipmaker Diodes (DIOD) for $151 million, or $8 per share in cash. That's slightly more than double BCD's Wednesday closing price.


W.W. Grainger (GWW) will pay $70 million to settle charges that it submitted false claims relating to contracts with the General Services Administration and the U.S. Postal Service. The hardware distributor maintains that it complied with all rules in its contracts and points out the settlement does not contain any admission of wrongdoing.