Eyeing US stock strength in the face of oil

Analysts will be looking for continued general resilience in U.S. stocks on Friday at the end of this shortened trading week.

"It's going to be a quiet day," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. We'll "see if we can have a constructive market in the light of lower energy prices."

Crude oil initially fell 5 percent before recovering on U.S. Energy Information Administration data that showed inventories rose by 7.7 million barrels last week, half of what the American Petroleum Institute had originally indicated.

Read MoreAnother wild day for oil

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

WTI futures still closed moderately lower at $51.16 a barrel, while Brent traded near $60, off recent highs of $63 a barrel.

U.S. stocks shook off the negative energy and Greece news on Thursday to close narrowly mixed, with the Nasdaq ending at 15-year highs of 4,924.70.

With seven consecutive days of gains, both the Nasdaq Composite and Nasdaq 100 were up more than 4 percent for their strongest winning streak in a year.

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U.S. markets were closed on Monday for Presidents Day.

Information technology stocks led gains on the S&P 500, which closed down just 2 points to 2,097.45, weighed by utilities. Earlier on Thursday, consumer discretionary stocks pushed the S&P to a new intraday high of 2,102.13, above its record close on Tuesday.

"I do think (this level on the S&P 500) is sustainable," said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Boston Private Wealth. "I still see 2,265 being reached this year."

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 44 points at 17,985.77, with Wal-Mart the greatest decliner as the retailer missed revenue estimates. However, the company did announce on Thursday that same-store sales increased for the second consecutive quarter after seven negative quarters. Half a million of its employees will also get pay raises.

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Exploration and production firm Cabot Oil & Gas and agricultural equipment maker Deere are among the companies reporting earnings before the bell on Friday. On Tuesday, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway disclosed a 5 percent stake in the equipment manufacturer.

After falling on the dovish Fed minutes on Wednesday, the U.S. 10-year Treasury yield struggled for direction on Thursday, starting the day around 2.07 percent and fluctuating in a range before holding near 2.12 percent at the end of the day.

"I think the 10-year is indicative, up from (the) lows we saw a month ago, indicative of waffling on the Fed (over an interest rate hike)," said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management. He noted that the Federal Reserve is very dependent on data in determining the timing of a rate hike.

"In essence, what the Fed said is what many people believe ... they will not raise rates in June (but rather the) late third quarter or fourth quarter," he said. "The economic data in the last week or two supports that idea."

With the weaker data, he expects U.S. GDP growth will be below 3 percent.

While economic reports for much of the four-day trading week contributed to a mostly lackluster image of the U.S. economy, weekly jobless claims came in lower than expected at 283,000 on Thursday.

"I was impressed," said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab. "There's really no sign of any of the layoffs in the energy sector having any impact on the weekly jobless claims number, so that's a very good thing."

The only data due on Friday is the Atlanta Fed business inflation expectations at 10 a.m.

In the continuing Greece-euro zone negotiations, Germany rejected Greece's proposed loan extension on Thursday. The Eurogroup of finance ministers is expected to discuss the extension on Friday.

"Greece (is) clearly dominating the headlines," said Maris Ogg, president at Tower Bridge Advisors. Like many other analysts, she expected an eventual deal between the country and the euro zone. "I don't think Greece is going to be momentous to the market one way or the other."

In other regional news, the European Central Bank released the first-ever minutes of its January policy meeting that showed leaders believed the economy needed more stimulus in order to escape deflation.

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A complete cease-fire between Russia and Ukraine remains to be seen, as fighting continued in eastern Ukraine on Thursday.

If Russian President Vladimir Putin can distance himself from the fighting, Pavlik said sanctions against Russia might be dropped, which "helps the global economy."