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Street awaits Fed minutes

Thursday brings more information on two major concerns for the U.S. market: the Federal Reserve and China.

"The language in these (Fed) minutes will be important for what the Fed's reasons were for not raising (rates) in September. The market has been very confused about the messages coming from the Fed and the data and what the Fed mandate is," said Omar Aguilar, chief investment officer of equities at Charles Schwab Investment Management.

The Federal Open Market Committee releases the minutes of its September meeting on Thursday at 2 p.m. ET.

Trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters
Trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Although the minutes won't reflect the central bank's view on Friday's weaker-than-expected nonfarm payrolls report, analysts said they will be watching to see how much the Fed was concerned about conditions overseas, particularly in China.

"I was surprised (Fed Chair Janet) Yellen specifically named China and emerging markets as a reason to delay," said Bryce Doty, senior portfolio manager at Sit Investment Associates, which has $14 billion in assets under management. It will be "interesting to see how much emphasis they put on Chinese policy decisions in the minutes."

He said it made sense for the Fed to look at U.S. market volatility, but "you don't want your country's policies to be subject to another country's policies."

Mainland Chinese stock markets reopen late Wednesday night Eastern time after a weeklong holiday and could add volatility to global markets, although most analysts expect the bias will be to the upside.

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"Volatility is likely to stay elevated until we get more clarity from the Fed and China, and defend the correction," said David Spika, global investment strategist at GuideStone Capital Management.

"I still think there's a good chance (the Fed does) move in December if we can sustain some confidence in global economy that would be evidenced in commodity prices and non-U.S. assets," he said.

Many market analysts expected the Federal Reserve to raise short-term interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade at its September meeting. The central bank's decision to hold off on a hike caused great uncertainty in markets about the Fed's view on domestic and global economic conditions. Friday's disappointing jobs report pushed Fed Futures to price in a rate hike for March 2016 at the earliest.

Weekly jobless claims due at 8:30 a.m. could give further context to labor market conditions.

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Global markets rallied Wednesday, helped by further indications of a bottom in oil. Brent held higher, near $52 a barrel in late trade Wednesday, while crude oil gave back some of its recent gains after U.S. crude oil inventories showed a greater-than-expected build.

Crude settled down 72 cents, or 1.48 percent, at $47.81 a barrel, remaining within the $44 to $49.20 range it has held since Aug. 27.

Energy gained 1.3 percent, and health-care stocks recovered slightly to boost the S&P 500 15.91 points to 1,995.83.

"When a market is being whipped around by one commodity, it's still a very volatile environment," said Marc Chaikin, CEO of Chaikin Analytics. "Basically we're in a tug of war between the economy and the market. Ultimately if the economic stats keep coming in weak, it's going to affect the market to the downside."

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The Treasury holds a 30-year bond auction at 1 p.m. ET. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard and Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota are both scheduled to speak Thursday.

Alcoa reports earnings after the close, marking the unofficial start to the third-quarter earnings season.