Like a financial Pied Piper, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi could call the tune for markets Thursday.
Traders are hoping for more details on the bank's bond-buying program when Draghi speaks at 8:30 a.m. ET, after the ECB rate meeting in Cyprus and ahead of the Wall Street open. The bank is scheduled to issue a rate announcement at 7:45 a.m. ET.
"He always pulls rabbits out of this hat, but I'd be surprised if there's much new," said Win Thin, senior currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman. Thin said Draghi will likely be careful not to talk up the euro, which was trading at $1.10 Wednesday.
Traders do expect Draghi to clarify some of the technical aspects of the bond purchases, which will be done by national central banks. If anything, his comments could be dollar positive and good for European sovereign debt.
"The ECB is the big story (Thursday). In the U.S., you have productivity and unit labor costs but again that's of secondary consideration to the monthly wage (and employment) data," said Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies. "You also have factory orders so we'll be looking for some signs of life in the capex orders which have been taking it on the chin in recent months."
Traders are waiting for Friday's February U.S. jobs report, expected to be show about 240,000 nonfarm payrolls, below the 257,000 last month.
As for the ECB, McCarthy expects to hear details on how the quantitative easing program will be conducted. "Each central bank will purchase its own domestic paper, going all the way out to the 30-year but buying will be concentrated in the front end, and we're not going to have the perfect information, like you had with the Fed," he said.
There have been some concerns that there could be a scarcity of European sovereigns as investors hold onto the securities. "A lot of the short-term stuff is bearing negative interest rates. I think it's the long-term stuff they're more concerned with. There's a global structural shortage of duration. They may meet with more resistance or have to pay up for the long end."
McCarthy said investors will be looking for a place to put their cash after the ECB purchases. "Given the ... divergence in central bank policies, between the Fed and the ECB ... I think a lot of those proceeds will end up in the U.S. bond market," he said.
U.S. yields had been following European yields lower ahead of the bond-buying program, but the direction changed last week, when Fed Chair Janet Yellen testified before Congress. Wall Street has since begun speculating anew about the timing of Fed rate hikes, and that is one factor giving a lift to yields.
U.S. Treasury yields were lower Wednesday, with the 10-year at 2.12 percent.
Besides the ECB, there are U.S. jobless claims and productivity and costs at 8:30 a.m. ET. Factory orders are at 10 a.m.
Earnings reports are expected from Costco, Kroger, Canadian Natural Resources, Canadian Solar, Ciena and Joy Global Thursday morning. Cooper Cos., Diamond Foods, Esterline Tech and Fresh Market report after the close.
Monthly same-store sales will be reported by some retailers during the morning.
Markets also await information on Fed bank stress tests, expected after the closing bell. San Francisco Fed President John Williams speaks on the economy in Hawaii.