* Futures up: Dow 71 pts, S&P 9.25 pts, Nasdaq 26.5 pts
By Sweta Singh
Dec 3 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were higher on Thursday, a day after Wall Street closed sharply lower following hawkish comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that hardened expectations of an interest rate hike this month.
* Yellen expressed confidence in the U.S. economy and said she was "looking forward" to a rate hike that will be seen as a testament to the economy's recovery from recession. The Fed's next policy meeting is on Dec. 15-16.
* Yellen is due to testify on the economic outlook before a joint Congressional committee scheduled at 10 a.m. ET (1500 GMT) on Thursday.
* Investors also await a meeting of the European Central Bank, which is widely expected to ramp up its trillion-euro bond buying program.
* Weekly claims for U.S. unemployment benefits is expected to rise, but remain near 43-year lows as the labor market continues to tighten. The data will be released at 8:30 a.m. ET (13:30 GMT).
* October new orders for factory goods will be released at 1000 a.m. ET (1500 GMT) and is expected to show an increase after falling for a second straight month in September.
* Economic data in recent weeks has been mixed at best. While construction spending has risen, there has been a sharp downturn in the manufacturing surveys along with weaker retail sales.
* However, job growth has been strong and Friday's employment report is expected to show that the U.S. economy added 200,000 jobs in November.
* A host of Fed speakers will make appearances through the day, including Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland President Loretta Mester and the Federal Reserve Vice Chair Stanley Fischer.
* Avago Technologies shares rose 8.9 percent to $144.01 in premarket trading after the company reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit.
* Dyax shares rose 12.7 percent to $37.60 after the company announced early regulatory approval for its proposed acquisition by Shire Pharmaceuticals.
* Zafgen shares were down 10.7 percent at $5.61 after the company said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was putting a late-stage study testing its experimental obesity drug on complete hold.
Futures snapshot at 7:21 a.m. ET (1221 GMT):
* S&P 500 e-minis were up 9.25 points, or 0.44 percent, with 133,576 contracts traded.
* Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 26.5 points, or 0.56 percent, on volume of 22,767 contracts.
* Dow e-minis were up 71 points, or 0.4 percent, with 22,971 contracts changing hands. (Reporting by Sweta Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian)