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For Wall Street, Fed's Yellen calls the shots

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IN THE NEWS TODAY

U.S. stock futures were searching for direction this morning, but the turn of the calendar has made a big difference so far, with the Dow and far outdistancing their November gains in just one December session. (CNBC)

The yield on German two-year bonds hit a record low today of negative 0.432 percent. Meanwhile, U.S. bonds were trading flat to lower this morning, with investors focused on this month's central bank meetings. (CNBC)

Fed Chair Janet Yellen speaks at the Economic Club of Washington at 12:25 p.m. ET. The central bank's Beige Book is out shortly after at 2 p.m. ET. Yellen is scheduled to testify before Congress tomorrow. (CNBC)

The path of increases in interest rates is likely to be "cautious and gradual" once the Fed begins to tighten monetary policy, central bank governor Lael Brainard said in a speech last night. (WSJ-subscription)

Yahoo (YHOO) was sharply higher in the premarket on a report the board is meeting this week to consider selling the Internet business, how to maximize the value of the Alibaba (BABA) stake, and the future of CEO Marissa Mayer. (WSJ)

Re/code said the Wall Street Journal's report on the impending demise of Mayer at Yahoo is greatly exaggerated. And so are rumors the board of the Internet giant is poised to sell off the entire core business.

In announcing the birth of their first child, Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla said they would donate 99 percent of their Facebook shares to a new charitable foundation. (CNBC)

A cyber attack on Hong Kong-based digital toymaker VTech Holdings exposed the data of 6.4 million children, in what experts called the largest known breach targeting youngsters. (Reuters)

The U.S. is deploying a new force of special operations troops to Iraq to conduct raids against Islamic State terrorists there and in Syria, ratcheting up Washington's campaign against the group. (Reuters)

The British Parliament is expected to hold a crucial vote today on whether to join the international effort to fight ISIS in Syria. Britain already participates in the U.S.-led coalition. (USA Today)

Facing a major debt deadline, Puerto Rico scrambled to free up $355 million to stave off a default. The governor also announced an unprecedented plan to take money from one group of bondholders to pay another. (CNBC)

More Americans had their backgrounds checked purchasing guns on Black Friday than any day on record, according to the FBI, an increase of about 5 percent from last year. (USA Today)

Top Republican party officials that GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump's increasingly plausible nomination could result in a sweeping electoral defeat. (NY Times)

Tiger Woods has announced that he's unable to commit to playing professional golf in 2016, saying he hasn't yet been able to start rehabilitation since undergoing back surgery. (ESPN)

Lefthander David Price has agreed to a landmark seven-year, $217 million contract with the Red Sox, in the richest deal awarded to a major league pitcher. (Boston Globe)

BY THE NUMBERS

Chinese stocks rallied today on speculation that Beijing was about to announce a new incentive to boost the country's sagging property market. The Shanghai composite rose 2.3 percent.

Oil prices were lower this morning, after an industry group said U.S. stockpiles increased. Expectations had called for a decline. Meanwhile, the Energy Department's usual Wednesday report on oil and gasoline inventories is out at 10:30 a.m. ET.

In a warm-up to Friday's monthly employment report from the U.S. government, the ADP's numbers on private sector jobs are out at 8:15 a.m. ET, with economists looking for gains of 192,000 in November compared with 182,000 additions in October.

At 8:30 a.m. ET, the government issues revised third quarter productivity numbers, seen showing a greater increase than last time to an annual rate of 2.2 percent. Meanwhile, unit labor costs are expected to be revised higher to 1.6 percent.

Total mortgage application volume decreased 0.2 percent last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Refinance applications decreased 6 percent from the previous week.

Brown-Forman (BF.B) is out with earnings this morning, while Aeropostale (ARO), American Eagle (AEO), Pacific Sunwear (PSUN), and PVH Corp. (PVH) are set to issue quarterly results after the closing bell this afternoon.

Microsoft (MSFT) holds its annual shareholders meeting today at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue Washington. The meeting begin at 11 a.m. ET.

STOCKS TO WATCH

Zafgen (ZFGN) shares were losing about half their value in premarket trading, after a second patient died in a late-stage trial of the drug developer's experimental obesity drug; this time from a blockage in an artery in the lung.

SunEdison (SUNE) terminated a previously announced agreement which would have seen it acquire a 16 percent stake in Brazil's Renova and subsequently sell certain assets to partially-owned unit TerraForm Global (GLBL).

Outdoor store chain Cabela's (CAB) today announced that its board is initiating a process to explore and evaluate a wide range of strategic alternatives to further enhance shareholder value.

The CEO of Shutterfly (SFLY) will leave the company in February after serving in that role since 2005. Executive search firm Spencer Stuart has been hired to seek a replacement.

Ascena Retail (ASNA) beat on earnings and match on revenue. The parent of the Justice, Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant, and Dress Barn clothing brands also raised its 2016 full-year guidance.

Bob Evans Farms (BOBE) beat on earnings but missed on revenue. The restaurant firm cut its full-year sales expectations, saying it's still in the "early innings" of a turnaround. Bob Evans also announced a $100 million increase in its stock buyback program.

WATERCOOLER

Starting in January, comedian Jerry Seinfeld will start a residency at the Beacon Theater, kind of like Billy Joel's steady New York City gig at Madison Square Garden. (USA Today)

The Rockefeller Christmas tree, with more than 30,000 bulbs and over five miles of electrical wire, is set to be lit tonight. Meanwhile, the lighting of the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree is also tonight. (NJ.com)