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Futures hold mixed amid data; Yellen eyed

Jenny Cosgrave
Lucas Jackson | Reuters. Stocks surged to year-to-date highs last week, and according to one top technician the market will continue to grind higher … at least for now.

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a mixed open on Wednesday, ahead of a speech held by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and amid some key data releases, following a strong close in the previous session.

ADP data showed November private payrolls topped expectations at 217,000 , above the roughly 190,000 estimate. That compares with expectations of 200,000 for Friday's November government jobs report.

Treasury yields rose, with the 2-year yield (U.S.:US2Y) briefly trading near 0.95 percent, while the 10-year yield (U.S.:US10Y) edged higher to 2.17 percent.

The U.S. dollar index attempted to recover from Tuesday's dip to trade just below multi-month highs. The euro fell back below $1.06, while the yen traded near 123.38 yen against the dollar as of 9 a.m.

Oil traded lower, with WTI crude off about 1.5 percent to near $41 a barrel.

Check out CNBC's special report on energy ahead of OPEC

Appearances by Yellen both Wednesday and Thursday could be critical in setting market expectations about the course of Fed rate hikes.

Also looming large is Friday's jobs report, the last big piece of data ahead of the Fed's December 16 meeting.

Yellen is scheduled to speak at the Economics Club of Washington on Wednesday at 12:25 p.m. ET and then testifies the next morning before the Congressional Joint Economic Committee.

Read More Fed's Lockhart: Upcoming FOMC meeting may be 'historic'

Revised third-quarter productivity rose 2.2 percent , while unit labor costs rose 1.8 percent.

The Fed's beige book on the economy is due at 2 p.m.

The shockingly weak November ISM manufacturing survey Tuesday showed a contraction in the manufacturing sector for the first time in three years. The reading was the latest piece of softish data that raises doubts about the Fed's plan to raise rates in December, if the economy is strong enough.

European equities traded mixed Wednesday with investors digesting the latest downbeat data from the U.S. and looking ahead to euro zone inflation data and the next meeting of the European Central Bank (ECB).

U.S. stocks closed near session highs Tuesday, the first trading day of December, shaking off intraday pressure from the weak manufacturing data.

Over the last 10 years, the S&P 500 (^GSPC) was up 70 percent of the time in December with an average return of 1.27 percent, according to analysis using Kensho.

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Disclosure: CNBC's parent NBCUniversal has a minority stake in Kensho.

CNBC's Patti Domm contributed to this report.

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