Oil-bound stocks hoping for relief

Stocks will likely remain tied to oil price moves Thursday, but stabilization in the commodity should support gains.

If equities rise, the S&P 500 will have a chance at testing its resistance level of 1,950.

"I suspect we get above that this time," said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at R.W. Baird, pointing to Wednesday's encouraging recovery in stocks. The major U.S. averages swung from an intraday decline of more than 1.5 percent to close positively.

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NYSE Traders on the floor.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
NYSE Traders on the floor.

Traders did not point to a specific reason for the massive turnaround, but a reversal in oil, settling up 28 cents at $32.15 a barrel indicated the commodity might be stabilizing after its recent plunge.

Other than natural gas inventories, no major industry-related news is expected Thursday.

Oil recovered in intraday trade on weekly inventory data that showed signs of declines in U.S. production.

For Thursday's stock market drivers, "I think it's still primarily oil. It would obviously be affected by any big surprises but most of the data that comes out tomorrow (usually) doesn't have any surprises that could drive the market," said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones.

Weekly jobless claims are due at 8:30 a.m. ET and expected to come in slightly above last week's 262,000 read. Durable goods for January are released at the same time and are projected to show a 3.3 percent rise.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency is scheduled to release its home price index for December at 9 a.m.

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On Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average rebounded from a 266-point drop — its largest recovery of losses by points since 2008 — and then went on to close up 53 points at 16,484.99. The S&P 500 erased intraday declines of more than 1 percent for the third time in 2016 and closed up modestly at 1,929.80.

"This is a strong close so you should probably see some follow-through (Thursday)," said John Caruso, senior market strategist at RJO Futures.

However, financials fell slightly, the only S&P 500 sector to end lower. The sector is on pace for a monthly loss of more than 4 percent.

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After expected late Wednesday comments from St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, two policymakers are scheduled to speak Thursday.

Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart gives welcoming remarks at the Atlanta Fed 2016 Banking Outlook Conference at 8:15 a.m. ET.

San Francisco Fed President John Williams is scheduled to give his outlook on the economy at 12 p.m.

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St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, a voting member of the Fed, will also be on CNBC's "Squawk Box" at 7 a.m.

AB InBev, Best Buy, Kohl's and Sears Holdings are scheduled to report earnings ahead of the opening bell, while Baidu, Autodesk, Gap, Kraft Heinz, Herbalife and Live Nation Entertainment are among those posting results after the close.

As of midday Wednesday, aggregate S&P 500 earnings for the fourth quarter were estimated to show a 4.55 percent decline year over year, better than the 5.25 percent drop expected at the start of the year, according to a note by Lindsey Bell, senior analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligence.