The S&P 500 was up 0.5 percent to 2,063 for the week, and is now up nearly 11 percent from its October lows. The S&P also had its best five-week winning streak since April 2009, and some analysts say its recent gains may take some of the steam out of a potential late December rally.
"We beat the Christmas rush and had the Santa rally in the month of November … we got through some hurdles here. The Fed minutes. We got through the end of quantitative easing, and we're handing the baton off to other central banks that need to get to work," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.
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"The stock market's biggest concern was the global economic slowdown, and all of a sudden you look in your stocking and you have a China stimulus and the ECB," he said.
U.S. data in the coming week includes a second look Tuesday at third-quarter GDP, expected to fall to 3.3 percent from the first reading of 3.5 percent. There's also consumer confidence that day. On Wednesday, there is consumer sentiment, durable goods, and personal income and spending. The market is closed Thursday, and there is a shortened stock market session Friday.
Hogan expects to see a positive holiday shopping season, already underway, but traditionally thought to begin on the day after Thanksgiving. Consumers are benefitting from gasoline prices that are nearly 10 percent lower than this time last year, and consumer confidence is at a seven-year high, he adds.
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James Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management, said he expects the path of least resistance to be higher for stocks, but he doesn't expect gains into the year-end to be that great.
"This thing has been a one-way train. Sometimes, something is so good it just can't go on because it's too good," he said.
"We've had nothing but fear all the way up. I don't know if it's there any more . It's not giddy optimism but I just don't know if it's fearful," he said. Paulsen said he had been defensive on U.S. equities, and was looking more at Europe and other overseas markets because of the possibility of central bank easing.
While stocks rose, buyers were also moving into the bond market this past week. Treasury yields moved lower Friday, and the 10-year was yielding 2.31 percent, just slightly below 2.32 a week earlier. As stocks rose on positive surprises in U.S. data and on foreign central bank actions, Treasury yields held in a range or moved lower, the reverse of what often happens.
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"There's a big disconnect. The stock-bond relationship is changing somewhat. I think that's interesting," Paulsen said. "It may be there isn't a growth number that moves the stock market, it's got to be inflation."
The Fed, in the minutes of its October meeting, highlighted the lack of inflation as a concern and that ignited a debate on Wall Street Wednesday about how concerned the Fed was about it. CPI and PPI both surprised this past week with higher core inflation, but still at low levels.
Adrian Miller, director of fixed-income strategy at GMP Securities, said the markets will continue to expect improving U.S. data and weaker European and Chinese data. German GDP is reported Tuesday and eurozone inflation data is expected at the end of the week.
"If we don't get a change, look for stocks to grind higher and bonds to trade in a very narrow range," he said, noting the yield curve is flattening.
"You're seeing the long end is dropping further than the front end which means the rally was more growth and inflation, or the lack of inflation—and less about Fed speculation," he said.
Miller said U.S. bonds are more attractive than other markets where other central banks are taking actions while the Fed prepares to step back. "You had this action from the PBOC and ECB which speaks to an overall environment of weak global growth…That's why the bond market is higher. That coupled with a related subject of just more central bank liquidity which is supportive of bonds."
Miller said there were no changes in market expectations for the first Fed rate hike, which futures signal is expected in September. However, he expects to see the Fed move in June.