Updated from 6:56 p.m. ET with information on after-hours trading.
What may have more to do with whether stocks can build on this rally though is how the market ultimately interprets the mixed message sent by the Federal Reserve on Wednesday afternoon as the central bank's members telegraphed growing hawkishness but good, old Ben Bernanke remained his dovish self during the press conference.
From here, it looks to be like many things in life, a matter of timing. As Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, noted, the pressure is building for a change in the central bank's stance on tightening despite Wednesday's decision to stand pat."The FOMC statement yesterday stuck to the view that rates will remain 'exceptionally low' through end-2014 but the new economic projections show that only 4 of the 17 FOMC members expect no change in rates by that date and the median forecast is 1.0%. How can this be?," Shepherdson wrote. "Mr. Bernanke was quite clear: The FOMC deliberations 'trump' the forecasts, which are no more than 'input' to the decision-making process." This year a number of the known hawks -- Charles Plosser, Richard Fisher, James Bullard, and Narayana Kocherlakota -- don't have votes so the doves are in control for now, and Wall Street seems fine with that. Meantime, Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ, sounded a note of caution late Wednesday, saying the market's generally positive reaction to first-quarter earnings may be running its course. He sees the signs of political instability in Europe as worrisome. "What next?," he wrote. "Investors responded rapidly to their underestimation of Q1 EPS growth, but may soon grow immune to the effects of an above-average beat rate. Upcoming European elections offer a new fixation, in our opinion, that may only cause the markets to a enter period of renewed uncertainty surrounding the fallout of elections that may be tipped by voters influenced by austerity fatigue, as well as political leaders who admittedly miss budget targets." As for Thursday's scheduled news, Amazon.com (AMZN) reports its first-quarter results after the close, and the average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters is for a profit of 7 cents a share in the March-ended period on revenue of $12.9 billion. In the same period a year earlier, the company earned 44 cents a share on revenue of $9.9 billion.
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