Economic reports could rule the markets Thursday, as investors get a fresh look at the jobs situation and the health of the housing market.
Weekly jobless claims, a disappointing data point of late, is released at 8:30 a.m. and is expected to show slight improvement over last week's 434,000 claims. The Philadelphia Fed survey, surprisingly weak last month, and existing home sales are reported at 10 a.m., along with leading indicators.
"The market's ripe for a move if one of those numbers surprise... I think rates have backed up enough. If you do get a negative surprise, we could rally back down again if the number turns out weaker than expected It seems, there's a lot more two way in the market that there was before," said Deutsche Bank U.S. economist Joseph LaVorgna.
"I think it might be a lot easier to interpret claims than to predict them," said LaVorgna. "We think they're going to go down because they typically do after Easter. The problem is I don't know what these floods are going to do and I don't know what we're going to see from those auto production shutdowns."
Stocks and commodities rose Wednesday, reversing some of their recent declines based on concerns about economic growth. The dollar was slightly weaker, down 0.1 percent against the euro . The Dow jumped 80 to 12,560 and the S&P 500 was up 11 at 1340. A big mover was crude oil , which rose $3.29 to $100.10 per barrel, as wild fires in Alberta shut in some Canadian oil production.
John O'Donoghue, who heads the Cowen trading desk, said stocks should remain volatile for awhile and trade sideways. "I think we're stuck at 1300 to 1350 on the S&Ps for awhile," he said. "I think this economy is going to stumble and bumble along for the next three years."
Markets have been jittery that weakening economic data may be signaling more than just a dip in first-quarter GDP, which came in at 1.8 percent. LaVorgna said he cut his second quarter GDP forecast this week to 3.2 from 3.7 percent. He said he made the cut because of the combination of the flooding (along the Mississippi River) and the shutdown of auto production because of supply chain disruptions in Japan.
What Else to Watch
Investors will also be watching LinkedIn's IPO, which priced late Wednesday at $45, the high end of a raised range. LinkedIn has attracted a lot of buzz as the first social networking company to go public and is now valued at about $4 billion. Thursday's earnings include Dollar Tree , GameStop , Gold Fields and Sears . Gap , Brocade and Salesforce.com report after the bell.
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