Shutdown threat; Catalonia vote; Brexit bites

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1. Shutdown for Christmas? Republicans scored a big win this week by passing a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. tax system.

But they'll need to act quickly to avoid a government shutdown.

Congress must pass a stopgap funding bill before midnight on Friday, or risk an embarrassing closure of government agencies.

Republicans in the House and Senate -- who have competing legislative priorities -- were still at loggerheads over a potential deal on Wednesday evening.

One potential outcome is another short-term budget extension that will keep funding at current levels.

2. Election in Catalonia: The Spanish autonomous region of Catalonia will choose a new local government on Thursday.

The vote was called in October when Madrid took control the Catalan government after lawmakers there made a unilateral declaration of independence.

The saga has taken a toll on Spanish markets and revived fears about the stability of the eurozone.

3. Brexit weakness: The number of cars manufactured in Britain fell 4.6% in November, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Domestic demand for cars declined more than 28% from the previous year, while exports rose 1.3%.

The industry group blamed a lack of clarity over Brexit for the weakness.

The British government has not said what kind of a trade deal will it seek with the EU -- its biggest trading partner -- after it leaves the bloc in March 2019.

4. Global market overview: U.S. stock futures were flat.

European markets opened lower, while Asian markets ended mixed.

U.S. markets closed slightly lower on Wednesday. The Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 shed 0.1%, while the Nasdaq was little changed.

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5. Earnings and economics: CarMax (KMX), ConAgra (CAG) and Finish Line (FINL) will publish earnings before the open. NIKE (NKE) will follow after the close.

The final estimate of third quarter U.S. GDP will be released at 8:30 a.m. ET. Economists are expecting growth of 3.3%.

U.S. data on initial claims will be published at the same time.

The Bank of Japan left key interest rates unchanged at its meeting.

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6. Coming this week:
Thursday -- Nike earnings; Final estimate on 3Q U.S. GDP
Friday -- El Gordo lottery in Spain