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Wall Street Watching Oil, Consumer Confidence

by Evelyn Cheng, CNBC / / Source:

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The U.S. consumer will be in focus Tuesday as Wall Street eyes some related economic reports and earnings. Investors also will watch for indications on oil prices and the path of Fed tightening, with key policymakers scheduled to speak throughout the day.

Jeremy Klein, chief market strategist at FBN Securities, said the consumer confidence figure is most important to him of the reports scheduled for Tuesday.

"If consumer confidence starts to unwind, that could be concerning because now the negative weight from Wall Street is starting to spill over into Main Street," he said.

Consumer confidence for February is due from The Conference Board at 10 a.m. ET. Analysts polled by Reuters expect a 97.3 print, down slightly from January's 98.1 read.

Also at 10 a.m. come January existing home sales, another indication of the strength of consumer demand. The figure is expected to edge lower but hold well above a 5 million seasonally adjusted annual rate. The December Case-Shiller Home Price Index is due for release at 9 a.m.

Oil prices will remain a primary focus for stock market action, especially as Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi is scheduled to speak at the CERAWeek energy conference Tuesday at 9:50 a.m.

His remarks follow OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem El-Badri's comments Monday that the cartel is willing to work with non-OPEC producers to find a solution to low oil prices.

Saudi Arabia led the 2014 switch to market-based pricing, and Naimi's remarks will be key since the kingdom and Russia last week agreed to freeze production at the historically high January levels if other producers joined in.

U.S. crude oil futures for March delivery closed sharply higher at $31.48 a barrel Monday after a report forecasting a drop in U.S. shale oil production this year and next. After the settle, the contract rolled toApril, which ended higher at $33.39 a barrel.

Stabilization in oil prices above $30 will likely support overall stock market gains, analysts said.

"As long as you don't slip below $30, that's enough. You're seeing enough signs of commodities decoupling from equities," Klein said. In the last week, stocks have sometimes managed to shake off pressure from oil price declines.

U.S. stocks closed more than 1 percent higher Monday, with the S&P 500 rising 1.45 percent to 1,945.50 as energy led all 10 sectors up. TheDow Jones industrial average jumped 1.4 percent, or 228.67 points, to 16,620.66, just shy of its 50-day moving average which it briefly topped in intraday trading Monday for the first time since late December. The Nasdaq composite closed up 1.47 percent at 4,570.61.

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