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3 Events That Will Drive Stocks

Stocks are little-changed this morning, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) and the broader S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) are up 0.2% and 0.02%, respectively, as of 10:10 a.m. EST.

Fiscal-cliff watch
After the White House and congressional Republican leaders had seemingly reached a public stalemate, things may be inching forward behind the scenes: News has surfaced that President Obama met with Republican House Speaker John Boehner over the weekend to discuss the fiscal cliff. With some prominent Republicans publicly breaking ranks by indicating that they're willing to entertain a tax rate increase on top earners, the odds that the Republican leadership will ultimately concede this point are increasing.

Fed watch
If you can't rely on politicians, at least there's the Chairman of the Board: Ben Bernanke (no, not Frank Sinatra). The Federal Open Market Committee is convening for its regularly scheduled two-day rate-setting meeting beginning tomorrow. Fed watchers think the FOMC could announce that it will replace Operation Twist with another bond-buying program as the former winds down.

Spaghetti Western
Will Silvio Berlusconi be the Man With No Name who returns to take control of the Italian Republic that deposed him? Of course, in High Plains Drifter, Clint Eastwood's character punishes the citizens who betrayed him when he was their sheriff. But one could make the argument that in Berlusconi's case, it was he who betrayed the trust of his citizens from the outset. Either way, the announcement from caretaker Prime Minister Mario Monti that he would step down early, which could usher in Italian elections in February, is unsettling to investors, who consider Monti a source of stability and sure governance.

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