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It's almost the end of the month. That means it's time for the monthly trotting out of auto analysts for tea-leaf reading. Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy, a guy we can always count on for doing his level best, predicts a decline of about 5% in December sales, with the majority decline coming from high-volume brands among US automakers. Murphy forecasts GM will show a 2% drop, Ford 13% and DaimlerChrysler 2%. But he sees at least one bright spot in the current US market: luxe brands. For badges like Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and Cadillac, December is usually the strongest sales month of the year, mainly because that's when i-bankers and auto research analysts receive their annual bonus checks. We half expected Murphy to close his report with a personal note letting us know whether he's decided on a BMW "Holiday Wish Event" or a Lexus "December to Remember" for the little lady. He'd better hurry up or he'll never find a big red bow in time!

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