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Earnings from department stores, producer inflation data and Fed speak will all compete for market attention Thursday, as investors continue to monitor tensions over North Korea's nuclear program.
Macy's and Kohl's report ahead of the opening bell, and Nordstrom reports after the close. Recent IPOs Blue Apron and Canada Goose report ahead of the open, and Snap reports after the closing bell. News Corp and Nvidia also report late in the day.
The producer price index and jobless claims are at 8:30 a.m. ET, and the Federal budget is released at 2 p.m.
"Even if you get a hotter-than-expected PPI, it's not going to move the needle," said Lindsey Group market strategist Peter Boockvar. He said the market is hanging on consumer inflation data, expected Friday morning. Inflation has always been important when the Fed weighs policy, but the lack of inflation has added to doubts that the Fed will be able to raise rates again this year, as it has forecast.
Wages has been one area where there's been a surprising lack of acceleration even with strong employment, and that's paralleled a lack of inflation in other parts of the economy. That makes comments from New Fed President William Dudley especially interesting Thursday. Dudley speaks at 10 a.m. ET at a press briefing on wage inequality in the New York region. He also will answer questions.
Stocks shrugged off their worst losses Wednesday, and the closed flat after initially selling off on the war of words between President Donald Trump and North Korea. Treasury yields were lower, as buyers sought safety in bonds, gold and the Swiss franc.
"I think it just proves that this continues to be a resilient market," said Todd Sohn, director of technical analysis at Strategas Research Partners. He said there could still be some choppiness, as markets move through the seasonally weaker August and September months, but he said the market action was encouraging.
Stocks hover near highs, even with the sell-off. Financial firms, including Citigroup and Bank of America, are increasingly warning that a correction could be coming in the near future, based on the fact stocks are often weak going into fall as well as some key events.
Topping the list of catalysts is the fact that the Fed is expected to remove some accommodation if it starts to reduce its balance sheet as expected in September. There is also concern about the fact that Congress needs to pass budget legislation and raise the debt ceiling by the end of September, and it may not go that smoothly.
Stocks have not had a significant correction since the decline of more than 10 percent that ended in February 2016.
"The really rough part is people want to see a correction. It's difficult to make a contrarian call for higher, but that could very much be in the playing cards," said Sohn.
The S&P 500 closed off less than a point at 2,474. Sohn said the immediate area to watch on the downside is 2,462, but then 2,400 would be a more important area of support below that. The Dow was down 36 at 22,048, and Nasdaq was down 18 at 6,352. The small cap Russell 2000 fell much more, losing 1.1 percent to 1,396.
"What was absent was small caps. They're still off the playing field. I don't they're leading lower, yet, they're still pretty much sideways. We do want to see them turn up. You can call it divergence right now, but I don't want to see the divergence grow," Sohn said.
Boockvar said he will be watching retailers as they report Thursday. "I'm paying more attention to what they say about the general health of spending rather than the online [shopping] impact on bricks and mortars, and hopefully we get some color on that," he said.