Stocks: It's all about oil

By Ken Sweet, contributing writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- It's simple: Oil is all that matters at the moment.

The story of quickly-rising energy prices has captured Wall Street's attention in recent weeks. The Dow rallied 190 points Thursday amid positive economic data and modest declines in oil prices only to have a chunk of those gains erased the next day as crude oil prices jumped above $104 a barrel.

Next week's trading agenda is thin. Investors will get only a couple notable pieces of economic data -- initial jobless claims on Thursday and the Commerce Department's retail sales report on Friday.

And no market-moving companies are scheduled to report quarterly results. A possible U.S. government shutdown has been averted for at least two weeks as well.

"Because it's going to be politically and economically silent, oil's movements are going to speak very loudly," said Jeff Kleintop, chief market strategist for LPL Financial.

High crude oil prices matter to investors because they become effectively a tax on the American consumer and can weigh heavily on consumer spending.

Investors said any positive economic data they've gotten recently, including last week jobs figures, will matter little if oil continues to rise.

"Oil is the issue in the market at the moment," said Arne Espe, a fund manager with USAA. "The higher it goes, the more direct impact it has on this fragile recovery we're in."

On the Docket

Monday: Urban Outfitters (URBN) is one of a handful of names reporting on Monday, releasing its earnings after the closing bell. The retail chain is expected to earn 52 cents per share, according to Briefing.com

On the economic front, the Federal Reserve will release January's consumer credit data at 3 p.m. ET.

Tuesday: After the closing bell, Boston Beer Co (SAM)., the maker of Samuel Adams beer, and retailer J. Crew (JCRW) will release their quarterly results.

There is no economic data scheduled for release.

Wednesday: A few mall-based retailers will report on Wednesday, including American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) before the opening bell and Hot Topic (HOTT) and Coldwater Creek (CWTR) after the closing bell.

The only nugget of economic data out on Wednesday is the Commerce Department's wholesale inventories report at 10 a.m. ET. Economists are looking for wholesale inventories to rise on average 1% in January, according to Briefing.com.

Thursday: Wall Street will get weekly initial jobless claims and the U.S.'s trade balance for January at 8:30 a.m. ET. Economists are looking for weekly jobless claims to rise to 382,000 claims from this week's 368,000 claims while economists expect the U.S. trade deficit to widen to $41.5 billion in January.

There are no major companies reporting earnings Thursday.

Friday: The Commerce Department will release its February retail sales report at 8:30 a.m. ET and the University of Michigan will put out its monthly consumer sentiment survey at 9:55 a.m. ET.

Economists are looking for retail sales to rise 1% from last month's rise of 0.3% while the University of Michigan survey is expected to fall slightly to a reading of 76.5 from last month's 77.5.

No major companies report their earnings on Friday as well. To top of page

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