NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -
A more than five-week stock market rally hit some resistance last week, but the week ahead could potentially restart the market's motor, analysts argue.
"I think odds are we'll move higher in the week ahead," said Jim Melcher, founder and president at Balestra Capital. "There's a lot of liquidity, it's what's buoying the markets, it's what's distorting the market, and it tends to move prices up."
However, he cautioned that with the S&P 500 up around 5 percent in the past month, there is the risk that some investors -- particularly the big institutional investors -- will want to cash out a bit.
"I think at this point you could see the hedge funds try to grab some profits, though at the same time, it's important to bet on higher gains in December," he added.
The last month of the year is typically the best for stocks. The S&P 500 has seen an average gain of 1.7 percent in Decembers since 1950, according to Stock Trader's Almanac.
Hilary Kramer, chief investment strategist at A&G Capital Group, said she is looking for more gains through the end of the year.
"There's a lot of money coming into the market right now, the economy is strong and at the moment, everyone is hoping the Fed will raise rates two more times and then stop," she added.
Yet, the Fed factor is also what might cause the rally to stall out further.
Gearing up for Greenspan, eyeing oil
Stocks were very choppy last week -- with only the Nasdaq ending higher -- as investors stepped back after the November run up and kept an eye on higher oil prices, rising Treasury bond yields and clues about Federal Reserve policy.
Oil prices seem to have peaked for the time being, after tapping out at just over $70 a barrel in August, but over the past two weeks, the price has been bobbing back up. The bounce back has not been significant enough to concern investors much as of yet, but the risk is in place.
Another risk to stocks in the weeks ahead is any sign that the Fed's rate-hike campaign is set to go beyond January, the last month of Chairman Greenspan's term. Such concerns were revived last week by rising Treasury bond yields and a spate of upbeat economic news -- including Friday's strong November payrolls report.
No Fed speakers are expected in the week ahead and there are few economic reports that are expected to give any hints. As such, the week ahead will also bring a lot of speculation about the following week's Fed policy meeting.
"The market will be focused on the Fed next week, on what the language of the statement might be," said Som Dasgupta, head of equity trading at PNC Financial Advisors.
At that meeting, the central bank is widely expected to lift the Fed funds rate, an overnight bank lending rate, by another quarter-percentage point.
But as always, it is what the bankers imply about future policy that will capture the most investor interest.
Key events in the week ahead
- Cisco Systems (Research) holds a three-day analyst conference beginning Monday; chipmaker Altera (Research) holds a two-day analyst meeting starting Monday as well.
- On Monday, the Institute for Supply Management releases its November read on the services sector of the economy. The index is expected to have fallen to 59.3 in the month, according to a consensus of economists surveyed by Briefing.com, from 60.0 in October.
- October factory orders, due Tuesday, are expected to have risen 1.5 percent in the month after falling 1.7 percent in September.
- Brocade (Research), a maker of gear for computer data storage, reports earnings Tuesday morning. The company is expected to have earned 5 cents per share, according to First Call estimates, versus 7 cents a year ago.
- Texas Instruments (Research) issues its mid-quarter update after the close Wednesday; rival Intel issues its mid-quarter update after the close Thursday.
- Toll Brothers (Research) reports earnings Thursday morning. The homebuilder is expected to have earned $1.66 per share versus $1.11 a year ago.
- The first read on December consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan is due Friday. The index is expected to have risen to 84.0 from 81.6 in November.
- Wholesale inventories are expected to have risen 0.4 percent in October after rising 0.6 percent in September. That report is due on Friday.