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Pre-Market: US Investors Watching for Signs From Fed Speakers; Inquiry Into JPMorgan's China Hiring Practices Expands

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Documents in JPMorgan Chase's bribery case explicitly linked the hiring of high-profile Chinese scions with business deals.

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Upbeat trade data from China helped lift stocks this morning as investors await hints of the Federal Reserve's plans for reducing its bond-buying program.

The major stock indices ended lower last week despite a sizable jump after November's jobs report showed that the US jobless rate fell to a five-year low. Investors' main concern now is what this means for the future of quantitative easing going into the Fed's Dec. 17-18 meeting. The most closely watched news today will be speeches from Fed members Jeffrey Lacker, James Bullard, and Robert Fisher, that could shed light on whether the Fed is likely to act on its May promise that it will scale back its $85 billion monthly bond-buying program.

The economic data calendar for Monday is empty. Before the opening bell today, Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) futures were up 0.04% to 16,029. S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) futures were up 0.08% at 1,806.20, and futures on the Nasdaq Composite (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) gained 0.20%.

Most foreign indices were also higher today. Chinese exports came in much better than expected in November, rising 12.7% year-over-year. Imports to the second-largest economy rose 5.3%. Its trade surplus rose 8.7% to $33.8 billion. As food prices eased, Chinese consumer prices rose 3% last month, just missing forecasts of a 3.1% increase.

Japan's GDP growth slowed to a quarterly 1.1% in the third quarter as business spending was unchanged despite unprecedented government stimulus.

Thailand's prime minister called for snap elections in response to a week of protests in Bangkok, the capital.

Bitcoin crashed this weekend, falling to a low of $690, before returning to $911.62.

In corporate news, documents in JPMorgan Chase's (NYSE:JPM) bribery case explicitly linked the hiring of high-profile Chinese scions with business deals. Spreadsheets and memos that the bank submitted provided a detailed picture of its "Sons and Daughters" hiring program. In one email, according to the New York Times, a Hong Kong executive at JPMorgan said, "You all know I have always been a big believer of the Sons and Daughters program - it almost has a linear relationship" with winning business with Chinese companies.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is also expanding its inquiry into JPMorgan's hiring practices to other Wall Street firms, including Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), Citigroup (NYSE:C), and Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS).

Today, American Airlines (OTCMKTS:AAMRQ) and US Airways (NYSE:LCC) will be officially joined under the name American Airlines Group (NYSE:AAL).

McDonalds Corp. (NYSE:MCD) reported today that global comparable store sales were up 0.5% in November. European sales were up 1.9%.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett
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