A batch of important economic data will get the early attention of investors Thursday, but oil's big run up will be a feature that could keep stocks in check.
Stocks finished lower Wednesday, failing to hold a second day rally after Tuesday's more than 3 percent rise. The Dow was off 46 points, or 0.4 percent. The S&P 500 was down 11 points or 0.9 percent, while the Nasdaq slid 11 or 0.5 percent.
"We'll be fine ... I've been saying all along we saw the lows," said Vince Farrell, managing director at Scotsman Capital. Traders continue to debate whether this week's lows were a successful retest of January's lows, and Farrell believes they have.
"I believe these lows will hold," he said. "What created the bottom was the first of the Fed's extraordinary moves." Yesterday's Fed announcement and market reaction was almost like a parallel. "I believe the market is going to interpret the Fed's innovative move as being enough to introduce liquidity into the system.""
Most stock groups finished Wednesday weaker. The industrials was the only S&P sector to show a positive move, up 0.28 percent. The worst performers were the financials, down 2.1 percent, followed by telecom, down 1.9 percent.
"When you have a big rally, to have a pullback is healthy," said Bear Stearns' Bill Nichols, senior managing director of equities trading.
Crude though was on a tear as the dollar sank Wednesday. Oil added another $1.17 per barrel or 1.1 percent to $109.92 per barrel and crossed above $110 per barrel in the after hours session. (Check out what economists are saying about the rising price of oil)
Gold rose $4.60 per troy ounce to $978.89. The dollar, meanwhile, slipped to a record low against the euro , losing 1.5 percent to $1.5557 per euro. It lost 1.7 percent against the yen .
The 10-year Treasury rose 31/32, taking its yield to 3.481 percent. The two-year was yielding 1.635 percent.
The big item Thursday is the 8:30 a.m. release of retail sales for February, an indicator of the consumer's health. It is expected to come in at a positive 0.1 percent. Weekly jobless claims are also reported at 8:30 a.m. Import and export prices are reported at 8:30 a.m. and business inventories are reported at 10 a.m.
Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson speaks on the financial markets at the National Press Club at 10 a.m.
Stocks in the News
Northrop Grumman's CEO Ronald Sugar appears on "Squawk Box" in the 7 a.m. hour to discuss his company's success with the Air Force tanker contract.
Target stock rose after it said late Wednesday that it was in talks to sell half its credit card receivables business.
Microsoft holds a financial analyst event called "Convergence" in Orlando, Fla. It promises to be similar to a briefing the company gave at Mobile World Congress last month and will address a slice of Microsoft's business as it relates to the company's enterprise business. Thanks to CNBC's Jim Goldman for clarifying.
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