Markets counting down to big jobs Friday

Oil prices and corporate news could hold market focus Thursday in the final day before Friday's highly anticipated jobs report.

"Does energy continue to remain firm? Do we get an answer on any of the biggest questions? And that's Twitter and Deutsche Bank," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.

U.S. crude oil futures settled 2.3 percent higher at $49.83 a barrel on Wednesday after a surprise drawdown in weekly crude inventories. Oil last hit $50 on June 29 and traders are watching whether crude can top that psychologically key level in the next few days.

Energy was the second-best performer in the S&P 500 Wednesday. The index closed 9.24 points higher at 2,159.73, with financials leading and REITs lagging.

Twitter shares are up 7.9 percent for the week so far as speculation builds of acquisition by another firm, potentially as soon as this week. Analysts and news reports have discussed Salesforce, Alphabet and Apple as potential buyers.

The U.S.-traded shares of Deutsche Bank have also held a recovery from record lows hit last week, while investors await news of a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. The DOJ has asked for $14 billion, but the bank and most analysts expect the final figure to be much less.

The only major economic reports due Thursday are the September Challenger, Gray & Christmas job cut report due at 7:30 a.m., ET, and weekly jobless claims scheduled for 8:30 a.m. release. Analysts polled by Reuters expect the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits to edge up to 257,000 from 254,000 the prior week.

Reports on natural gas inventories and the Fed balance sheet are expected later in the day Thursday.

"There's no economic data between now and Friday that's going to move the needle," said Joe Lavorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank Securities.

The week's economic data mostly topped expectations and increased expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in December. Traders have focused all week on the scheduled Friday morning release of September employment data, which should add weight to the case for a hike sooner rather than later.

International Speedway is set to release earnings ahead of the open Thursday, while Helen of Troy and Ruby Tuesday are expected to report quarterly results after the close.