THIS may be the 2016 top for S&P 500: Strategist

If the S&P 500 were to eke out as much as a 5 percent gain this year, investors should feel grateful, Stifel's Hans Olsen said Thursday.

"If you're going to squeeze any incremental return out of this market, you've got to do it in a very tactical way, which is when we get these pullbacks of 10 percent or more," Olsen told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

The Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500, as of Wednesday's close, were well clear of correction territory, defined by a decline of 10 percent from recent highs. The Nasdaq composite was a bit closer to a correction heading into Thursday's trading.

The awful new year start for stocks has recently been on the mend since the Feb. 11 bottom. But Wall Street was under pressure this week, with the Dow, S&P, and Nasdaq on track for their first weekly losses in the past six weeks.

"Before the end of the year what we could claim as a victory is a total return on the S&P 500 somewhere in the order of 4 or 5 percent," said Olsen, global head of investment strategy at Stifel Wealth and Investment Management.

"If we look at the [earnings] numbers ... top line has been falling for five-consecutive quarters. Bottom line, it looks like we're going to put in four-consecutive quarters of decline," said Olsen, who's rather pessimistic about the upcoming first quarter earning season.

"That's not a market where you get terribly excited about leaning into," he added.

The U.S. stock market is closed on Friday for Good Friday. Despite the market closure, Good Friday is not a federal government holiday, so the Commerce Department still plans to release its final revision of fourth quarter gross domestic product.

While those GDP figures are fairly backward-looking, investors are hungry for any and all economic data, as they search for clues to whether growth may be strong enough for the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates again.

Deutsche Bank Chief U.S. Equity Strategist David Bianco does not see the Fed increasing rates at its April meeting. "There's a good chance of a June or July hike. But at this stage people who are hawkish don't have a whole lot of credibility."

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said in a speech Thursday another rate hike "may not be far off," after central bankers held the cost of borrowing money steady at their meeting last week, with only minor downgrades to economic forecasts but referred to "global and financial developments [that] continue to pose risks."

Bullard, a voting member this year on the Fed's policymaking committee, supported the March policy statement. Post-meeting indications from the 17 members on the panel suggested two rate rises were expected this year.

The Fed increased rates for the first time in more than nine years in December. At the time, policymakers had projected a more aggressive four hikes in 2016.

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