- U.S. stocks opened higher on Wednesday, as investors awaited testimony from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen scheduled later in the day, while they continued to monitor events in Ukraine.

During early U.S. trade, the Dow 30 rose 0.38%, the S&P 500 added 0.30%, while the NASDAQ Composite inched up 0.04%.

In testimony to Congress later Wednesday, Ms. Yellen was widely expected to reiterate interest rates will remain on hold for longer, in spite of last month’s stronger-than-forecast U.S. nonfarm payrolls report.

Meanwhile, concerns over the crisis in Ukraine still weighed on market sentiment, as conflict between the government and pro-Russian separatists in the east and south of the country continued to escalate, fuelling fears over a civil war.

Sentiment improved however, as Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was ready to discuss a way out of the Ukrainian crisis with the head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

In the financial sector, Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) jumped 1.04% following reports it completed fundraising for its second real estate credit pool at $4.2 billion. The bank shifted its real estate focus to lending from buying properties after the financial crisis.

Adding to gains, Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) rallied 1.67% after reporting late Tuesday second-quarter net income of $1.92 billion, or $1.08 a share, exceeding analysts’ estimates. The company also said that sales grew to $11.6 billion, beating projections of $11.2 billion.

Meanwhile, Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ:CZR) skyrocketed 19.77% after saying that it is selling a minority interest in its largest unit. The decision is set to remove guarantees by the casino company on much of its $23 billion of debt and to set the stage for a wider restructuring.

On the downside, Merck & Company (NYSE:MRK) saw shares drop 0.57% a day after Bayer (XETRA:BAYGN) agreed to pay $14.2 billion for a number of the U.S. pharmaceutical giant''s over-the-counter products.

Other stocks likely to be in focus included Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA), Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK), Allergan (NYSE:AGN) and Hertz Global (NYSE:HTZ), scheduled to report quarterly results later in the day.

Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were mixed to higher. The DJ Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.27%, France’s CAC 40 gained 0.33%, Germany''s DAX advanced 0.54%, while Britain''s FTSE 100 fell 0.22%.

During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong''s Hang Seng tumbled 1.05%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 plunged 2.93%.

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