Retailers' April sales reports could shape early market action Thursday and provide a window on just how the consumer is faring.
Oil pressure continues to rise and is an increasing concern, as crude set yet another record on the NYMEX Wednesday. Oil finished the day at $123.53 per barrel, up $1.69 or 1.4 percent. Oil has risen nearly 10 percent in the last four days and is up 101 percent from a year ago.
Stocks got ripped Wednesday, falling the most since April 11. The Dow was off 206.48 or 1.6 percent to 12,814. The Nasdaq was down 44.82 or 1.7 percent, and the S&P 500 was off 1.8 percent at 1392.57.
Art Cashin, director of floor operations at UBS, said there were a confluence of factors hitting stocks. "You seem to have exhausted a bit at the top of the trading range. Yesterday's high was exactly the high from Friday, so it's kind of a minor double top so the combination made for a full bear stew," he said.
Concerns about the Countrywide deal reignited some worry about the financials, he said. Plus oil pumping to a new high pressured stocks, as did a late afternoon report on consumer credit which showed credit expanded by $15.3 billion in March, its highest rate in four months and well above the $5.5 billion expected.
"That's suggesting to me that I'm right, and people are taking their credit cards and buying milk and eggs and gas like never before," said Cashin.
There's just a few data points expected Thursday. Weekly jobless claims are reported at 8:30 a.m., and a number of 380,000 is expected. Wholesale inventories are reported at 10 a.m. and the consensus is for a rise of 0.6 percent. The European Central Bank and Bank of England have rate meetings in the morning but neither are expected to move on rates.