10 things you need to know before the opening bell

Here is what you need to know.

China admits to cooking the books. A report from China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua, says “several” officials in the northeastern part of the country have admitted to fabricating economic data to show higher growth than obtained. In one instance, Liaoning GDP was reported at 9.5% three years ago, and is now being reported at 2.7%. According to one unnamed official, “If the past data had not been inflated, the current growth figures would not show such a precipitous fall.” Additionally, Guan Yingmin, a government official in Heilongjiang province suggested investment figures for much of the northern part of the country have been inflated by 20%.

Natural gas is trading at a 13-year low. Unseasonably warm weather has dried up demand for natural gas, pushing its price down to $1.881 per British thermal unit. New York City saw the thermostat reach 70 degrees Farenheit on Sunday. The weather is expected to remain unseasonably warm into the end of the year with AccuWeather data obtained by Bloomberg forecasting a high of 55 degrees in NYC on Christmas Day. Today’s 5.3% plunge has the energy component at its lowest level since January 2002.

Iran says it will flood the market with even more oil. West Texas Intermediate crude oil is trading at its lowest level in seven years after Amir Hossein Zamaninia, Iran’s deputy oil minister for international and commerce affairs, said there was “absolutely no chance” it will delay shipments. According to Bloomberg data, Iran pumped 2.8 million barrels per day in October as it gears up for the removal of international sanctions at the beginning of January. WTI crude oil is trading down 2.3%% at $34.79 per barrel.

South Africa has its third finance minister in a week. South African president Jacob Zuma named Pravin Gordhan finance minister just four days after firing Nhlanhla Nene and replacing him with unqualified lawmaker David van Rooyen. South Africa’s currency, the rand, sank to a record low 16.0543 per dollar in response to Nene’s removal before regaining ground. The rand trades stronger by 4% at 15.2650 per dollar.

Wholesale prices in India fell again. India’s Wholesale Inflation Price Index fell for a 13th consecutive month. However, the pace of the decline in November, down 1.99% year-over-year, was the slowest since January. In August, prices tumbled 5.06%, making for their steepest YoY drop since September 1974. India’s rupee is weaker by 0.3% at 67.1037 per dollar.

Bridgestone is buying Pep Boys. Bridgestone is buying the automotive service and retailer for about $863 million, or $15.50 per share. The deal represents a $0.50 per share from increase Bridgestone’s initial offer that was made in late-October, and matches the offer made by activist investor Carl Icahn. “The joining of Bridgestone and Pep Boys combines the expertise of nearly 200 years and a proud heritage in the American automotive aftermarket industry,” T.J. Higgins, president, Consumer U.S. and Canada, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, said in the press release.

Cheniere’s CEO is out. The board of directors has named Neal Shear interim president and CEO, and has given him a seat on the board of directors. The change at the top was made as the company looks to focus on the completion of its Sabine Pass & Corpus Christi Liquefaction projects, which will help its transformation into an operating company with “stable and growing positive cash flow.” In addition, G. Andrea Botta was named Chairman of the Board.

Exxon Mobil announced its CEO secession plan. Darren Woods has been voted president and named to the company’s board of directors, making him next in line to run the oil giant. Woods will replace CEO Rex Tillerson when he retires sometime between now and March 2017. Previously, Woods served as senior vice president.

Stock markets around the world are mixed. Germany’s DAX (-0.5%) is the laggard in Europe and China’s Shanghai Composite (2.5%) was the standout in Asia. S&P 500 futures are up 2.50 points at 2012.25.

The US economic calendar is blank. Economic data is absent from the calendar on Monday, but picks back up on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve will announce its closely followed interest rate decision. The market currently sees a 74% chance the Fed will raise rates for the first time since June 2006.

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