By Anora Mahmudova and Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch

Dow futures are up about less than 0.1% early Monday

U.S. stock futures relinquished modest gains and pointed to a lackluster open on Monday as investors trained their attention on a speech by Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen.

Dow Jones Industrial Average index futures gave up earlier gains and were flat at 19,800, while S&P 500 index futures were up 1.5 points to 2,256. Nasdaq-100 futures gained 7.75 points to 4,923.50.

A speech by Fed's Yellen, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time at the University of Baltimore on "The State of the Labor Market" will mark the last of thecentral bank's speeches before the Christmas break and will be followed for any additional guidance on monetary policy. Her speech comes less than a week after the Fed raised interest rates for only the second time in about a decade and indicated a faster pace of rate hikes in 2017 than had previously been expected.

Last week, the Dow industrials closed up 0.4%, marking the longest weekly run of gains since November 2015. The S&P 500 index fell about 0.1%, along with the Nasdaq Composite Index . But overall, Friday marked a weaker session for stocks ( after reports of a Chinese warship had seized an underwater U.S. Navy drone.

Beijing has agreed to return the drone, but analysts said the diplomatic spat highlights growing tensions in China-U.S. relations in that region, which could prove disruptive to Wall Street trade.

"While no one expects the USA and China to be best friends, moving away from the current status quo into a frosty relationship could provide an unwelcome backdrop for markets," said Rebecca O'Keefe, head of investment at stockbroker Interactive Investor, in a note to clients.

Read:Trump's Twitter slip declares China's drone seizure 'unprecedented' (

Some still believe the stock markets have moved too far too fast this year, and may not get a so-called Santa Claus rally ( in the last trading days of 2016. The Dow industrials has tried and failed in recent sessions to nail the psychologically important 20,000 level.

On the data front, the Markit services purchasing managers index for December is due at 10 a.m. Eastern.

Stocks to watch: Canada-based insurer Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd.(FFH.T) has agreed to acquire ( Swiss peer Allied World Assurance Co.(AWH) in a $4.9 billion cash-and-share deal.

Standard Industries Inc. on Sunday reached an agreement ( to buy German roof maker Braas Monier Building Group SA(BMSA.FF). Standard is the U.S.-based owner of North America's biggest roof maker, GAF Materials Corp.

Walt Disney Co.(DIS) was up just under a percent in premarket trading after "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" hauled in an estimated $155 million ( in the U.S. and Canada at the box office over the weekend. The takings were the second biggest ever for a December opening.

Lennar Corp.(LEN) reported an 11% jump in fourth-quarter profit (, beating forecasts. Shares were unchanged in premarket action.

Iran officials warned on Sunday that if U.S.-President-elect Donald Trump tries to scuttle the country's deal to buy 80 jets from Boeing Co ( it will take action to recover lost payments.

Other markets: Asian markets closed mostly lower, while European stocks pulled back from 2016 highs ( as banks took a breather from a recent rally.

Crude prices ( rose 23 cents to $52.15 a barrel, while gold for February added $2.50 to $1,139.90 an ounce.

The dollar ( pulled back against major rivals. Investors were cashing in on gains of about 1.2% last week that came on the heels of the Fed's rate increase.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 19, 2016 09:06 ET (14:06 GMT)

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