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Pre-Market: Facebook Is Sued Over Alleged Privacy Violations; Stocks Higher Ahead of Major Fed Speeches


Billionaire investor George Soros is wary of China this year.

Stocks are poised to start Friday higher ahead of several speeches by Federal Reserve members that could move the markets.

The Fed's Jeremy Stein and Charles Plosser will speak at the American Economic Association in Philadelphia on shadow banking, low interest rates, and banks as patient debt investors. Chairman Ben Bernanke will deliver a speech on the Fed's future. Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker will also discuss his outlook for the economy in Baltimore. The Chairman's speech at 2:30 p.m. will likely cement the dovish consensus guiding the Fed through its transition to new leadership under Janet Yellen. Bernanke will also answer questions.

A major storm covered much of the New York metro area in snow, which could hold back trading volume today. Before the opening bell, futures contracts on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) were up 0.16% to 16,414.00. S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) futures rose 0.18% to 1,829.80. Nasdaq (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) futures gained 0.13% to 3,563.75.

Today, General Motors (NYSE:GM), Ford (NYSE:F), and other automakers could see heavy trading as they report December 2013 sales figures. Economists forecast that domestic-vehicle sales slowed to an annualized rate of 12.3 million from 12.8 million in November. Total vehicle sales are likely to have sold at a yearly rate of 16 million, down from 16.4 million.

Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) shares are up 0.91% despite news of a class-action lawsuit against the company. Litigants allege that Facebook scans users' "private" messages and sells that information to marketers and data aggregators. They say that the practice violates the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Facebook's lawyers say that the suit is "without merit."

Shares of The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA) were up 0.3% ahead of a union vote on a contract that could ensure that the coming 777 planes will be made in the Seattle area. In November 2013, after the machinists union rejected a contract, Boeing considered moving production to Japan or non-union US states.

Overseas stocks rose with the exception of China, where services PMI came in at a four-month low of 54.6 in December 2013 from 56 in November. (Readings over 50 indicate expansion in the sector.) This indicator raised fears that China's growth is running out of steam. Yesterday, billionaire investor George Soros said that China is his central concern for the world economy.

"The major uncertainty facing the world today is not the euro but the future direction of China," he wrote on Project Syndicate. "The growth model responsible for its rapid rise has run out of steam."

"That model depended on financial repression of the household sector, in order to drive the growth of exports and investments. As a result, the household sector has now shrunk to 35% of GDP, and its forced savings are no longer sufficient to finance the current growth model. This has led to an exponential rise in the use of various forms of debt financing," he wrote.

In Spain, the number of registered unemployed fell by 2.24% last month, the biggest monthly drop on record.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett
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