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US futures hold higher after ADP miss; earnings, Fed speakers on horizon

US markets remain skittish

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wednesday, as investors awaited remarks from key Federal Reserve officials, and parsed through key economic data.

Companies in September created jobs at the slowest pace in six months as the labor market showed further signs of tightening, according to a report Wednesday from ADP and Moody's Analytics.

Dow futures traded about 40 points higher, while S&P and Nasdaq futures rose 4.75 points and 8.25 points, respectively.

Elsewhere on the data front, the trade deficit widened to $40.7 billion in August. Factory orders and ISM non-manufacturing are also expected at 10.00 a.m. ET. Mortgage applications rose 2.9 percent last week, driven by European bank fears.

The U.S. central bank has been thrown back into the spotlight this week, with Friday's release of the September jobs report expected to be a key point for investors.

Ahead of the data release, Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker and Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari are expected to give their own respective speeches on Wednesday.

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
Lucas Jackson | Reuters

International markets have been on edge following hawkish remarks from Fed officials and a report that policymakers in Europe were looking at tapering asset purchases.

On Tuesday, Lacker said there was a strong case for raising interest rates, while on Wednesday, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said in New Zealand that he would be "fine" with hiking rates by the end of the year if the data remained supportive, according to Reuters.

In Europe, a Bloomberg report published Tuesday said the European Central Bank could taper bond purchases before the expected March end of its quantitative easing program. The ECB later denied it had discussed the subject.

Meanwhile, crude futures posted strong gains on Wednesday. Prices were higher following an industry report suggested that U.S. fuel inventories could have fallen for a fifth straight week, Reuters reported. U.S. WTI last stood around $49.69 per barrel, while Brent crude hovered around $51.82.

Investors will now be looking ahead to 10.30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, when the latest crude inventories data are expected.

When it comes to earnings Yum! Brands is set to report on Wednesday. Acuity Brands, and RPM International are also expected to post results. AZZ and Constellation Brands, and Monsanto reported quarterly results before the bell.

European stocks traded in the red, while Asia-Pacific indexes were mostly mixed in trade. In the previous session, U.S. markets closed lower.

—CNBC's Holly Ellyatt, Arjun Kharpal and Jeff Cox contributed to this report.

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