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Five Things to Watch: Gas Guzzlers, the Madoff Mets and More

Another quake in Japan, another EU nation on the brink, and another day without a budget deal. Here's what we're watching…

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner.
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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner.

Staring Down Shutdown: Late Thursday, prospects of a budget deal looked increasingly slim, as the expiration of Friday night's continuing resolution drew increasingly near. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was "not optimistic" ahead of a planned meeting of Congressional leadership with President Obama Thursday evening. Thus far, markets have shrugged off the impact of a limited shutdown, with Goldman Sachs noting that any fiscal drag caused by a closure would be temporary. Looks like we'll be putting theory to the test.

Japan Rattled Again:A 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck Japan, leading to a three-foot high tsunami hitting the country's devastated northeast coast. Global markets reacted on the news, with equities selling off sharply and the dollar falling against the yen. More clarity on the effects become apparent as Japan awakes Friday. However, authorities at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi plant assured that no further damage occurred as result of the quake. Regardless, the latest shock reminds that Japan's crisis is far from over, as the island nation wrestles with recovery. In early Friday trading, the Nikkei opened down slightly.

The Portugal Price-tag: European Union finance ministers face their third bailout package since the debt crisis began. Policy makers gathering just outside of Budapest Fridayhad been set to begin debating the building blocks of the region's new economic scoreboard. However, after Portugal's caretaker government formally requested EU aid Wednesday, they will have to turn focus to negotiating a loan that some have estimated could cost up to $130 billion. Oh, and another loser? Ireland. The Emerald Isle was hoping to renegotiate its emergency loans... and the odds of that happening just declined significantly.

Gas Guzzler Nation: Friday afternoon, President Obama will speak at an Indianapolis transmission plant that produces systems for hybrid vehicles. With gas surging to a new high, it begs the question: why are pick-up and SUV sales outpacing the industry? The numbers don't lie. Gas has not hit the point where it's forcing people to give up the size and utility they want. Year-over-year pickup sales are up 21.5% & SUV/crossover sales are up 20.2%. With oil closing over $110 on the New York Mercantile Exchange Thursday, gas prices might not be stopping here.

Meet the Mets: Being a Mets fan is tough enough. But, the franchise approaches its 2011 home opener Friday under the cloud of Bernie Madoff. Trustee Irving Picard is suing the Wilpon family, the franchise's principal owners, in turn leading them to shop around a minority stake in the team. All told, the Mets have problems from top to bottom, with the smart money questioning just who will meet the Wilpons' asking price and baseball insiders wondering how the team's starting rotation will hold up past next week.

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