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Sideways trading days could gear up bull again

Two lackluster, back-to-back trading days may be setting the stage for a continued stock market rally.

Heading into Thursday, investors will be watching earnings from Dow component Wal-Mart, as well as Kohl's, Tyco, Viacom and SABMiller. Applied Materials and Nordstrom report after the close. Cisco may be a factor in early trading, after its stock fell after hours on a disappointing outlook.

There are two jobs-related reports—the 8:30 a.m. EST weekly jobless claims data and the 10 a.m. EST JOLTs report on job openings and layoffs.

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

After the market's tiny move Tuesday, stocks were mixed Wednesday with the Dow down two points at 17,612 and the S&P 500 off one point at 2,038. But the Nasdaq again outperformed with a 14-point gain to 4,675, and the small-cap Russell 2000 was up 6 points at 1,186.

"Sellers had a chance to show some power today, and they didn't have much. Tech went green and the Russell went green, even in the face of falling oil," said Scott Redler, a partner with T3Live.com.

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"It was another attempt to sell the market off and it held there pretty well. It was the first time we opened down six, seven handles it the last six sessions. Sellers had an excuse to take profits with the DAX down 1.6 percent and Europe down across the board," said Redler, who follows the market's short-term technicals.

MacNeil Curry, global head of technical strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said stock charts look bullish for the S&P 500 to trade up to 2,060, but he's not as bullish on the dollar and said it may be topping against the euro. He said there's support at 123.09 and the euro was trading above that at 1.244 Wednesday afternoon.

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"I think we could trade up to 1.30 … it may have turned," he said. The stronger dollar has been weighing on oil and gold, both lower Wednesday.

Curry said gold could also be about to turn, after a bullish reversal Friday. Gold futures closed at $1,159.1 per ounce Wednesday, and Curry said it could bounce back to $1,245 or higher.

Precious metals analyst Howard Wen, on the other hand, said he thinks gold may bounce but it will have a hard time getting back above $1,200. He expects it to average $1,175 in 2015. But he did say there is good physical demand, with investors snapping up coins and jewelry buying.

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There are also several Fed speakers Thursday including Fed Chair Janet Yellen who makes welcoming remarks and a Fed and European Central Bank conference at 12:45 p.m. New York Fed President William Dudley will have spoken overnight in Abu Dhabi. Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser speaks at 12:30 p.m. on monetary policy, and Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota speaks at 3:30 p.m. at the Stanford "State of the West" Symposium, in Stanford, California.

The Treasury also auctions $16 billion in 30-year bonds at 1 p.m. The Department of Energy releases inventory data for petroleum and natural gas at 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.