Market Insider: Thursday Look Ahead

Stocks will likely rock and roll again Thursday.

Wednesday's market was particularly volatile, although for a good part of the day it was unusually calm as investors waited for the Fed's rate decision. In the final half hour, the Dow wiped out a big gain to end 74 points lower. The Dow was up 298 at its peak, and down 174 at its low point.

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"It's surreal every day," said one trader. "The closes are unbelievable."

Heavy fund selling, and some buying, ahead of the end of the month Friday has been blamed in part for this week's wild swings.

"I'm hoping this market settles down after Friday and there's some kind of normalcy next week. The credit markets are remaining tight and overnight lending remains decent," said Patrick Boyle of LaBranche.

The Fed Wednesday shaved a half point from its target Fed funds rate, as expected, but it also made some gloomy, though not unexpected, comments about the economy. The Fed said growth has slowed markedly and the extraordinary financial market stress could put the economy at greater risk.


Investors Thursday will be watching for third quarter GDP and weekly jobless claims. There are also some major earnings, including Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell, Marathon Oil, Motorola, CVS/Caremark, Colgate Palmolive, Apache, Waste Management, Avon Products and Newell Rubbermaid.


GDP is the big one to watch Thursday. Economists expect a decline of 0.5 percent.

Steve Stanley, chief economist at RBS Greenwich Capital, said his forecast is for 1.2 percent growth in the third quarter, the bulk of which is from inventories. "We've got a big swing from a big negative in the second quarter to positive in the third quarter and that's adding over 2 percent to GDP." In the third quarter, he expects inventories of plus 20, compared to negative 50 in the second quarter.

For the fourth quarter GDP, he expects decline of 2.5 percent.

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