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Stock futures higher ahead of Fed Chair's testimony before Congress

Hot Stock Minute

Stock futures were indicating a higher open ahead of the first Congressional testimony from new Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. Investors will be watching Yellen's testimony for hints on key Fed policies including signs of where Yellen comes down on the balance between economic growth and inflation. Another big question Wall Street will be watching is what Yellen will say about the Fed's guidance that interest rates will remain near zero until "well past" the time the unemployment rate falls below 6.5% now that we're close to that threshold. Any discussion of the taper of the Fed’s bond-buying program will also be closely watched. Of particular interest is whether recent weakness in the job market will have any effect on the Fed’s current plans to wind down the program.

Among the stocks to watch this morning: Google and Sprint. Google (GOOG) signed a major deal with ad measurement firm comScore which would combine the two companies' technologies. Advertisers would then be able to independently measure their campaigns and track online ads in near real time. This is all part of Google's push to win more business from big brands who spend most of their ad money on television and print.

Sprint (S) surged in early trading after the nation's number-three mobile provider reported its fourth quarter net loss narrowed, beating estimates by $0.07. Revenue grew and beat estimates as well. For the year, Sprint ended with a record 53.9 million subscribers. For the quarter, the company lost 69,000 monthly subscribers, but that was much better than the drop of 371,000 that analysts had predicted.

Meanwhile, Barclays (BCS) announced it will slash up to 12,000 jobs across its business units this year. Britain's third-largest bank may face a backlash from British politicians and the public, however, because the bank also raised bonuses for investment bankers. Barclays shares were down as much as 6% in pre-market trading.

The debt debate is heating up again in Washington as the latest deadline looms large at the end of this month. Congress is headed out of town tomorrow and won't be back until February 25th. That's just two days before the Treasury says the U.S. will hit the debt ceiling. The House plans to vote on one plan tomorrow that ties a fix on military benefits to the debt ceiling, but Democrats have long demanded a "clean" vote on just the debt ceiling. In our poll, do you think Congress can agree before the deadline or are we headed for another debt ceiling standoff? Cast your vote and post your comments below.

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