Jobless claims and tech stocks: Here’s what could drive the market on Thursday

The S&P 500 slipped a bit on Wednesday to finish out the month of May. With the first trading day of June around the corner, here's what market strategist Max Wolff of 55 Institutional will be looking for.

Just a pause?

After a very strong start to the year, equity markets have stalled out a bit lately. From the second day of March to the last day of May, the S&P 500 has risen by just two-thirds of 1 percentage point. And the index is almost perfectly flat from Thursday's close.

"I'll be watching if we're going through a pause of market momentum, or if we've kind of lost our 'oomph,'" Wolff said Wednesday on CNBC's "Trading Nation."

Wage growth

Thursday will bring the release of initial jobless claims data, which will be followed on Friday by the May employment report.

In the jobs data, "our eyes will be firmly on the wage growth," Wolff said. "The Fed is acting like it's coming, but is it?"

Average hourly earnings have risen steadily, if mildly, over the past few years. Coming in at $26.19 in the April employment report, hourly earnings were at $25.54 a year before that, and $24.89 two years ago.

As Wolff referred to, earnings will be closely watched by the Federal Reserve, since they are thought to have a close relationship with overall inflation.

Tech leadership

Information technology has easily been the best-performing sector this year, logging a gain of nearly 20 percent while the S&P 500 is up just 8 percent. In the month of May, the comparison has been even more stark, with the tech sector rising by more than 4 percent while the S&P 500 was up just 1.2 percent.

Wolff pointed out that five tech stocks — Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Alphabet and Microsoft — have driven a huge share of the gains seen in the S&P 500 and in the Nasdaq 100 this year.

"If this [rally] is going to last, that can't," the strategist said.


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Trading Nation is a multimedia financial news program that shows investors and traders how to use the news of the day to their advantage. This is where experts from across the financial world – including macro strategists, technical analysts, stock-pickers, and traders who specialize in options, currencies, and fixed income – come together to find the best ways to capitalize on recent developments in the market. Trading Nation: Where headlines become opportunities.

Michael Santoli

Michael Santoli joined CNBC in October 2015 as a Senior Markets Commentator, based at the network's Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  Santoli brings his extensive markets expertise to CNBC's Business Day programming, with a regular appearance on CNBC's “Closing Bell (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET).   In addition, he contributes to CNBCand CNBC PRO, writing regular articles and creating original digital videos.

Previously, Santoli was a Senior Columnist at Yahoo Finance, where he wrote analysis and commentary on the stock market, corporate news and the economy. He also appeared on Yahoo Finance video programs, where he offered insights on the most important business stories of the day, and was a regular contributor to CNBC and other networks.

Follow Michael Santoli on Twitter @michaelsantoli

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