This is what could help stocks break out Friday

A bump from Microsoft and earnings from General Electric, Honeywell and McDonald's could help decide whether or not stocks could take aim at finally breaking out of a tight trading band Friday.

Microsoft roared past tech bubble levels to all-time highs in extended-hours trade, after it reported better-than-expected earnings Thursday, and the stock could have an influence on Friday's market. Microsoft is the third largest S&P 500 member by market cap and could help set the tone for the tech sector, which has many earnings reports next week.

Scott Redler, partner with T3Live.com, said he is watching to see if the S&P 500 can break out of a range between 2,130 and 2,144, and earnings could be a catalyst. The S&P closed off 3 points at 2,141 Thursday, while the Dow was off 40 at 18,162.


Divide between low earners, high earners

"The market's been trapped under the 21-day moving average for almost two weeks, so the first step for the bulls to get some momentum back would be a close above 2,147. Then the next obstacle would be the 50-day at 2,161," he said.

Honeywell has already advised its earnings would not meet the upper end of its 2016 forecasts, due to weakness in aerospace. Industrials have been under pressure, with warnings also from Dover and disappointing earnings from railroads like Union Pacific.

General Electric, a global industrial viewed as an economic bellwether, is expected to earn 30 cents per share, a 3 percent increase over last year's third quarter, according to Thomson Reuters. Revenues are expected to be up 6 percent.

"GE is not priced for a good report. If GE comes in decent, or just in line, it probably can rally and help the market," said Redler. "In July, GE was $33. Now it's down at $29, weekly lows. The Street's not expecting much from GE. If it could just come in line, it could get some kind of bounce. If it misses, it seems the downside is priced in," Redler said.

The majority of S&P earnings have been coming in better than expected, which has become the norm. According to Thomson Reuters, earnings are expected to be up a half percent for the S&P 500 companies, breaking a year-long streak of negative results.

Redler said the real test for stocks will come next week when some key names report — Apple on Tuesday and Amazon.com and Alphabet on Thursday.

"Those reports are going to have to be strong with decent guidance in order to be rewarded. Those three names are priced for perfection," he said, noting the stocks have run up into the earnings period.

Other companies reporting Friday include Synchrony Financial, Moody's, Parker Hannifin, ManpowerGroup, Lincoln Electric, SunTrust and Citizens Financial. Daimler, LM Ericsson Telefon and SAP also report.

There are also comments expected from San Francisco Fed President John Williams at 2:30 p.m. EDT at the Federal Home Loan Bank's members conference. Fed Gov Daniel Tarullo speaks earlier in New York at Columbia Law School at 10:15 a.m.