Silver said retail sales should be up 0.3 percent, and up 0.1 percent when excluding auto sales. "Auto sales have been strong in the past few months. Between October and November, there wasn't much incremental change," he said.
Vehicle sales have been a strong spot in the economy, running at an annual rate above 18 million, and they are seen as one part of the economy that could be sensitive to higher rates.
Stocks rose Thursday after three rocky sessions. Even though U.S. oil futures fell below $37, stocks delinked from oil after following it closely in recent sessions. The beaten-down S&P energy sector bounced to be the second-best performing major sector, up 0.6 percent Thursday. The S&P 500 rose 4 points to 2,052.
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West Texas Intermediate crude futures lost 1.1 percent to settle at $36.76 per barrel, while Brent crude futures closed down 1 percent at $39.73, the lowest close for both since February 2009.
"Energy is the area of the market that gives us the most concern. If we get pulled lower in the first quarter, I think it's going to be the main driver of the weakness, and it looks like energy is rolling over again," said Ari Wald, technical analyst at Oppenheimer Asset Management. Wald said the best-case scenario would be if oil and commodities were in a bottoming process.
But oil could be a problem if it's not nearing a bottom. "There's always one culprit. Let's put our bear caps on. It was the banks in 2008. It was tech in 2000. … Energy is the cycle's big loser. If the market cracks here, this is what is going to bring it lower. You're seeing it in the credit spreads," he said.
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