Stocks will be challenged Thursday to shake off the crankiness that gripped the market late in Wednesday's session. Inflation data, a light flow of earnings and some regional economic surveys are on the calendar.
"It's like there's just one door, and everybody's trying to get out of it at the same time," said a trader as that wave of selling hit in the last half hour of trading.
The CPI, consumer inflation data, is reported at 8:30 a.m. Thursday and is expected to show a modest increase of 0.2%, in line with Wednesday's producer prices report. The Empire State manufacturing survey is also due at 8:30 and at noon, the Philadelphia Fed's survey is reported.
Fed speakers Thursday include Chicago Fed President Charles Evans who speaks about economic mobility in Chicago at 9:45 a.m. New York time, and Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig who speaks about the economic outlook in Santa Fe at 1:30 p.m.
On the earnings front, reports are due from Tyco and Starbucks .
Merrill Lynch's financial services conference continues in New York and may make headlines for a third day. A highlight Thursday morning will be the presentation by Duncan Niederauer, named CEO of the NYSE Wednesday, shortly after Merrill Lynch said it landed NYSE Chairman and CEO John Thain to be its CEO, replacing Stan O'Neal.
Niederauer is currently Chief Operating Officer of the NYSE. Both he and Thain appeared separately with Maria Bartiromo on "Closing Bell" Wednesday, shortly after news of their individual appointments was released.
"I think the strategy course is set properly. It's just a matter of a lot of hard work and continuing to go in the direction we've gone in," Niederauer told Bartiromo. He also said the NYSE has "set the table for potential consolidation down the road." Not surprising, as exchanges worldwide rush to find partners.
In fact, a rumor circulated Wednesday as CNBC's Bob Pisani reported that NYSE's board was holding its unscheduled meeting that NYSE was planning to announce a merger with NYMEX. NYMEX would not comment on that, but CNBC's Rebecca Jarvis knocked the story that the meeting was about a deal at midday. (Check out Pisani's blog here).
Still a good number of traders wouldn't be surprised to see those rumors resurface.
Thain takes the helm at Merrill at a rocky time for the firm. O'Neal was ousted as the firm took $8 billion in subprime-related write-downs. Thain told Bartiromo that he believes the mortgage business is attractive when risk is properly managed. Wall Street responded favorably to his appointment and Merrill stock got a lift from the news.
But financial stocks had gotten a jump start right out of the opening gate on comments from Bear Stearns chief financial officer. You might guess he was also speaking at that Merrill conference where Goldman Sachs CEO appeared the day earlier, sparking a rally with his comment that Goldman would not take a write-down.
Bear CFO Sam Molinaro said Bear expects to write down $1.2 billion in assets tied to mortgages in the fourth quarter, far less than expected.